It’s 6:30 PM, and you’re hours into a wedding. The reception is over, the drinks are flowing, and Cupid’s letting his arrows fly.
But at this wedding, you’re not just some Joe Schmo at table 26 getting by on deep drinks and shallow chit-chat. You’re at the big table getting ready to give your best man speech. No pressure. But right before you grab the mic, a 4-year-old toddler decides to turn the dance floor into his own personal playpen.
What started off as cute and amusing has now become distracting. Not just any distracting, the “can-someone-please-grab their-kid?” type. He’s having a tantrum on the dance floor, his parents aren’t in sight, and everyone is noticing. But the show must go on. So you grab the mic, gaze out to the sea of people, and attempt to power through your speech. It doesn’t quite land. And it’s because you forgot to do one thing, all great communicators do.
Address the elephant in the room.
Get on the same page
Addressing the elephant in the room is a communication tactic all great communicators use. It’s about acknowledging what’s happening in the present moment and saying what’s on everyone’s mind. For example, if there were an actual elephant in the room, you’d say, “Hey, what’s up with this elephant here?” and answer the question on everyone’s mind.
This tactic is more potent than a double shot of espresso because it humanizes the speaker and lets the audience know, “hey, I’m one of you.” After all, if you don’t say what everyone is thinking — it makes you seem unaware.
In the case of the best man speech, a simple opening line — “Bartender, I’ll have what he’s having” while pointing to the toddler would have immediately diffused the tension and instantly made the best man more likable. That’s addressing the elephant in the room.
But this principle isn’t limited to white dresses and black tuxes — it’s everywhere.
Marketing’s secret weapon
In marketing, it’s a secret weapon to craft content that speaks directly to your audience. Let’s say you’re running a win-back campaign to rekindle relationships with former customers. Obviously if you’re targeting former customers, they probably feel some type of way about you. There is unaddressed tension. In this case, it’s a good idea to address the elephant in the room head on.
A killer opening line might be a straightforward acknowledgment like, “Hey, we miss you, and we’d love to have you back.” This brings comfort and closure to your prospects.
Or imagine launching a product that sounds too good to be true. Simply stating, “Yeah, this might sound too good to be true,” humanizes the message and helps you take skepticism head-on. After all, you’re saying what your prospect is thinking. It helps you two get on the same page.
As a copywriter for a Fortune 500 company, I used a similar line in our win back campaign and the result? A new control beating creative. That’s the power of addressing the elephant in the room.
Use it in sales
In sales, addressing the elephant in the room is how you can instantly become more likable. For example, in those awkward cold calls, there’s always that uncomfortable moment when you barge into a random office unannounced and meet the receptionist who could only be wondering, “What on Earth are you doing here?”
Addressing the elephant in the room is a way to build rapport instantly.
Saying something like, “Hey, I bet you’re wondering why I’m here.” Or “I’m sorry for stopping by unannounced, I’m sure you’re busy.” shows you’re aware and considerate. It immediately sets you apart from every other salesperson who barrels in without a speck of social grace which unfortunately happens all the time.
Or perhaps you’re in a meeting where your prospect looks as if they have a question. Simply saying, “It looks like you may have a question.” Can instantly make you appear more attentive.
I have personally used this method to close quite literally hundreds of deals with hundreds of businesses. The best part, addressing the elephant in the room only made our connection stronger.
It humanizes you.
Whenever you address the elephant in the room, it humanizes you. It shows you’re not just a corporate robot but a real, live, flawed human. And you know what? When your prospects recognize that shared humanity, it’s easier for them to trust you. Trust of course, is great for business.
And let’s face it, don’t we all prefer doing business with folks we like, know, and trust? I tend to think we do.
So, whenever you get the chance, embrace the awkwardness and address the elephant head-on. It’ll make you more relatable, and the best part? It doesn’t cost a dime — just keen observation and a touch of courage.
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