Every day, I work with people who are stuck. They can’t get from here to there, and some people can’t even see there. Others are heading toward the wrong there but don’t know it until someone helps them find the better questions to guide them along their way.
But are you schtuck? It’s different than just being stuck. Today, Blair Glaser is weighing in on what it means to be schtuck and how to get…UNschtuck.
Beth and Randy,* a married couple, are sitting in my office, fighting as usual.
I cross my feet up on the table, fold my arms behind my head, settle in, and wonder aloud which episode of “The Beth and Randy Show,” they will be performing today. They laugh. Some of their friends have had similar responses to their constant bickering.
Push pull, push pull, jab, jib, jab.
They’ve got a patterned, rehearsed way of being with each other that they know is not working, yet they cling to for dear life. Beth and Randy are stuck in their schtick.
Dave, a sales manager, is a compulsive joker. For a moment, he looks at me blankly.
Anonymous feedback from his peers sits in a pile of pages between us.
We’ve read it. It’s not good.
Just when I think something interesting is going to happen, my heart braces. He smiles hard and snorts through his Car Talk cackle, “And I thought executive coaching was going to be a reward, not a punishment!!!”
Ba-dum bump . . . ching!
Dave is excellent with vendors. Dave is up for a promotion. None of his co-workers in the earnest, eco-friendly small business office want to work with him. Dave, too, is stuck in his schtick. His hyper humor makes people uncomfortable.
It was great to see my old friend Amy, but I was distracted by the multicolored plastic hairpiece holding up her multicolored, untamed hair.
I have nothing against fanciful ways of dressing; it’s just that I knew her many years ago as “the theatrical costume designer with the least theatrical wardrobe.”
“What’s with the hair?” I asked.
She launched in. From a random costume gig on a bizarre independent production that became wildly successful, Amy had garnered a reputation for styling people and artists who dressed outlandishly.
Dressing herself in that style was a marketing move, and not necessarily a bad one, it’s just that from my perspective, it was so NOT her, and I felt the discrepancy. When she talked about how, even though business was good, all she really wanted was a nice boyfriend — I wondered if her schtick was also preventing her from making a satisfying connection. Amy was bound by her brand.
Schtick is a yiddish word that has evolved from meaning “a comedian’s act” to “something canned or contrived.” We all have a schtick — a little rehearsed or improvised act we do at parties or sales pitches — and we all need one at times, so if you are feeling immune to the wonders of schtick, think again. Your schtick could be the persona you project on TV, or when representing your brand at networking events. It could be the behavioral dance you do when your partner confronts you on something.
There is nothing inherently wrong with schtick. But if you can’t take it off, like Beth, Randy, Dave and Amy you can become schtuck. Then your presence becomes all schticky and brand-y, with your whole self being swallowed up by a 24/7 performance that keeps real people at arms length. Even with 10,000 friends on Facebook, schtuck is a very lonely place to be.
In this new era of business practices, we are perpetually reminded to be authentic and vulnerable in representing ourselves. Hurrah! This boldness and authenticity draws people, and business, to us. However, if you use openness as part of a my-personality-is-my-brand marketing strategy and work perpetually, it can become schtick, too, and you may not even recognize it.
Three ways to tell if you’re schtuck:
- You feel closer to the friends and fans attached to your business or social media platforms than you do to ones in real life
- You have an extreme aversion to anything that makes you feel awkward, vulnerable or naked — you avoid blind dates and funerals at all costs.
- You make others who simply want to hang with you uncomfortable — but if you’re fully schtuck, you probably don’t notice.
Schtick is good, but schtuck is isolating. Being isolated has harmful effects on your personal life, which will eventually catch up to your business.
Feeling schtuck? You can’t break your schtick with your schtick (or a stick). Only concentrated effort and professional help will allow you wind your way out of it.
So until then, I offer you the ultimate UNSCHTUCK challenge:
You know that thing that people tell you to do, that thing you know intellectually will help you move closer to loved ones, but you feel you could never do because “it is just so NOT me?”
And remember — Schtick stuck or schtuck, love yourself no matter what.
* all names and some circumstances have been changed.
Blair Glaser, MA, LCAT, RDT is a therapist, consultant and leadership mentor who helps people excel on the twin journeys of loving and leading. She works with individuals and couples, consults with business leaders and their organizations, and has been a pioneer of Women’s Leadership through her workshops and offerings. She lives in Woodstock and Brooklyn, NY with her partner and their dog.
Follow Blair on Twitter — @BlairGlaser