You’re at dinner, you look across the table, and your heart races.
Oh lord, they have a giant piece of parsley stuck in their teeth. What do you do? You want to let them know and alleviate this shared embarrassment and yet you’re also afraid of making the situation even more awkward.
So what to do…the short answer is tell them.
Yes the polite thing to do is tell them because no one wants to go home and realize they’ve spent the past couple hours socializing with food hanging from their teeth.
Remember etiquette is about making the other person feel comfortable and whilst pointing out an embracing fact may be uncomfortable in the moment it’s vastly less embarrassing than letting them prolong the embarrassment causing situation. By helping them nip it in the bud you’re actually doing them a big favor.
This applies to all sorts of awkward situations. Toilet paper stuck to the shoe, makeup smudges, open button on a blouse…
If you think about it, the only reason you don’t point out these types of things is because it makes you uncomfortable. You may not be sure how to address it without coming across as rude or critical and so you remain silent. The brave and kinder thing to do is suck up your own insecurities and tell them.
So how to tell them…
You’ll want to mention it as soon as you see it so they don’t feel you’ve been staring at the mishap and judging for too long.
You’ll also want to be casual about it, like it’s no big deal, because really it isn’t. A simple “oh you have a little something in your teeth” or “wait your lipstick has smudged a little” will do nicely.
Although you want to appear casual you want to be semi discreet. Don’t yell it across the table, if there’s anyway to keep it private from others do so.
You can even add a self deprecating comment, such as “oh my god I had braces for years, so I got into the habit of obsessing about food in my teeth.” Anything to make light of the situation is good, but keep it brief. The point is to bring it up swiftly and kindly and move on.
By saving someone from any further embarrassment you’ll actually become closer as they’ll likely feel a greater connection and affection towards you. They may feel awkward in the moment but they’re sure to be grateful, wouldn’t you be?
HOMEWORK: Think about the last time your were confronted with this type of situation, what did you do? Visualize yourself handling the situation with more ease and confidence so the next time it arises you’ll feel more comfortable pointing out the blunder.