That was Awkward: A Story about Reserving Judgment

A few weeks ago, I made my way to The Governor’s Cigar Lounge for our monthly gathering—whisky, cigars, and deep conversations with a couple of close friends. This tradition has become one of my favorite times of the month, a chance to connect over family, careers, aspirations, and to encourage each other’s growth.

However, this particular day was different. It wasn’t the usual light-hearted start to our time together because it was overshadowed by the sobering news that one of my friends, let’s call him John, had been diagnosed with cancer. Nobody is ever ready to hear that news and rarely are friends and family able to process it either.

An Awkward Moment

As we processed the news, Alan, an acquaintance from the lounge, approached. He mistook another friend of mine, Mark, for a different friend—also black, from California, and in construction. John, never one to shy away from calling out the awkward, flippantly said, “That’s Brian’s other black friend. He has two black friends.” A strained chuckle followed.

Alan, perhaps realizing his blunder, excused himself to grab a cigar. Yet, unexpectedly, he returned, asking to join our table—a bold move given the discomfort we’d all just felt. We welcomed him, unsure of how things might unfold.

A Sudden Change

As we resumed talking, Mark shared that his sons had started their own businesses. Alan, seizing a moment of connection, offered his mentorship, recalling his early days and the guidance he received. He handed Mark his business card saying, “Someone helped me early on and I like helping people. Tell your sons to call me and I’ll give them an hour of my time every month to talk about business.” This generous offer visibly moved Mark, bridging the gap that had occurred earlier.

The conversation deepened when Alan shared his own battle with cancer, providing not just advice, but hope to John, who was in the beginning stages of processing his own diagnosis. This exchange transformed the evening from one of somber news to one of unexpected support and solidarity.


Reflecting on the evening, I was reminded of the power and necessity of reserving judgment. Alan’s initial mistake could have easily defined our interaction. Instead, his subsequent actions painted a fuller picture: a man eager to support and connect, embodying the kind of everyday generosity we often overlook.

We all have our moments—missteps that could invite judgment. But what if, instead, they opened doors to deeper understanding and connection? What if we chose to see the best in each other more often?

I share this story not just as a reminder of the good that can emerge from awkward beginnings but as a call to action: Reserve judgment. Offer Second Chances. Stay open to the transformations that patience and empathy can foster. Your next awkward moment could be the beginning of something beautiful.


Next time you’re quick to judge based on a first impression or a minor misstep, remember this story. Think about what opportunities for connection and help might lie beyond that initial judgment. In our fast-paced, often superficial world, taking a moment to understand and connect on a deeper level can make all the difference, both in personal relationships and in broader community interactions.

Let me end with this question: Have you ever been surprised by the depth of a relationship that started off on the wrong foot?

Edited by ChatGPT


Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE and a faculty member at the Cialdini Institute. An author, TEDx presenter, international speaker, coach, and consultant, Brian helps clients apply influence in everyday situations to boost results.

As one of only a dozen Cialdini Method Certified Trainers in the world, Brian was personally trained and endorsed by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents was an Amazon new release bestseller. His latest book, The Influencer, is a business parable designed to teach you how to use influence in everyday situations.

Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by over 700,000 people around the world and his TEDx Talk on pre-suasion has more than a million views!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.