Lesson 039: Diffusing uncomfortable situations
TV Series: Star Trek - The Next Generation
Season/Episode: 1/13 ('Datalore')


During a meeting of the senior officers, including Data, on board the Enterprise on the topic of assembling a new Data based on duplicate parts of Data found on a planet, everyone is fumbling around apologetically, when referring to the new Data as 'it', not wanting to offend Data.

Capt. Picard interrupts the meeting to interject that while the subject matter being discussed may be sensitive in nature, they cannot proceed with the meeting with the cloud of hesitation over every question being asked or remark being made, due to reluctance in offending Data.

Capt. Picard finds common ground for all to feel comfortable with the knowledge that humans are, after all, just machines too, only electro-chemical in nature. This puts everyone at ease immediately and the meeting proceeds successfully.


When an issue of a sensitive nature is being discussed in a meeting situation consisting of multiple people, there is quite often a tendency on the part of many in the meeting to be very cautious in their choice of words, so as to not offend anyone. In the process of trying to be so politically correct, the meeting usually deteriorates into making everyone feel very uncomfortable in saying almost anything.

As this defeats the main purpose of holding a meeting, it becomes the primary task of the meeting leader to confront this uneasiness head-on, immediately and to diffuse it, so that everyone is comfortable again in having an open discussion.

By publicly remarking on the elephant in the room that everyone is so delicately trying to avoid, the meeting leader can break through the glass walls of people's hesitation to speak.

Sometimes, it may take nothing more than just the mere mention of the sensitive issue to clear up the matter, while other times, a more direct edict may be required with the stipulation that nothing anyone says will be held against them should they wish to speak up.

In the movie Anatomy of a Murder (1959), there is a murder trial situation where, given the mores of that time, there was great uneasiness in openly discussing a female undergarment which was an evidentiary part of the trial.

The judge takes quick control of the court room audience degenerating into a locker room situation by openly announcing the name of the undergarment and advises everyone present to get their silly little giggling out of their system, so they can continue with the trial at hand. Results were immediate and conclusive.

Just like Judges with their court rooms and Captains with their crew, always retain control of your meetings as the meeting leader.

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