The Schmutz Test...
It's Saturday morning at the gym, and an old friend is talking to me about her new job and life, except its a bit hard to focus on what she is saying. It is interesting, and I want to hear her stories, but she has a GIANT piece of green stuff stuck in her teeth, and every time she smiles I can't help but stare.
Finally I step in: "Because we are old friends, I have to tell you that you have something stuck in your teeth."
The smile quickly fades as recognition sets in. "What the heck! I had spinach for breakfast 4 hours ago and no one said anything?!"
<aha ... it WAS spinach>
"Well..." I say back, "Those other people must not have been good enough friends."
Welcome to the "Schmutz Test"
When we talk to companies about the 5 phases of Office Friendships we encourage them to think about a filter that feels like their culture and can define the 5 phases for their company.
The couch test is one, the dog test is another, but the SCHMUTZ test always brings about the biggest aha moments. Everyone knows that scene when someone has bbq sauce on their cheek, or a glob of sun-tan lotion on their face, or the dreaded green stuff stuck in their teeth.
Mom always removed Schmutz from my face with a wet thumb, "Come here you have schmutz all over you." But that was mom.
What level of friendship do you need in order to tell someone that they need to do a "Schmutz Check." If you barely know their name, or their background, do you ignore it?
Do you swipe at your face, in the general vicinity of where they have crumbs stuck in their mustache or peanut butter on their cheek?
Do you vigorously scratch your nose when one of the trickiest Schmutzes of all, the nose schmutz (or boog schmutz) rears its ugly head?
If you are really great friends, do you leave it, like toilet paper suck to their foot, just so they will be miserable when you finally point it out to them a while later?
Friends tell friends about Schmutz, and maybe even how to avoid Schmutz in the future. Co-workers and acquaintances seldom do. Its the moment where your personal confidence overlaps with your friendship with the other party, and if history is any indication, it seems like friendship wins out over confidence almost all of the time.
You not only need the courage to point out the Schmutz, but the relationship to make the delivery go as smooth as possible and avoid a 1-way ticket to awkward-ville.
Don't take our word for it. Next time you are out at a restaurant eating some BBQ ribs, or putting on sun-tan lotion without a mirror, or didn't realize you have shaving cream on your ear until half the day is gone, ask yourself how friendship played into the idea that you were running through the day with a Schmutz problem, and no one seemed to let you know until it was way too late.