Coping When You're Out of Your Depth
You will experience a scenario at least once in your life where you feel out of your depth. You’ll find yourself in a situation where your skill or knowledge isn’t on par with what’s needed. We spend time and effort learning emergency contingencies but don’t often (thankfully) have the need to call upon them. And so, I've turned to a pro for advice on how to do that. Professional con man Frank Abagnale of ‘Catch Me if You Can’ fame. In his autobiography ‘Catch Me If You Can’ he lists six main attributes he found he needed to pull off some of the most brazen impersonations and cons.
1. Relax and Project Confidence
When you’re in a situation where you feel like you’re out of your depth, nervousness and even panic can set in. The feeling of being out of place can make you imagine everyone is focusing on you. But as Abagnale discovered, people are far less observant and attentive than you’d think. Abagnale found that if he walked confidently and purposefully, people were unlikely to question him. He acted like he belonged, so people assumed that he did.
2. Look the Part
Abagnale found that there was great power in a uniform. While not every job and situation calls for an actual uniform, every event does have a standard of dress, and by adhering to it, you’ll automatically seem more like someone who knows what’s they’re doing.
3. Play Catch-Up Like a Mad Man
If you’ve been thrown into a situation where you don’t have the skills or knowledge to perform up to par, then you’re going to need to play catch-up every spare second you get. Abagnale didn’t go into his impersonations by the seat of his pants; rather, they were the result of meticulous and thorough planning and research.
4. Take Notes
No matter how much direct or indirect research you do, don’t rely on your memory alone to store all that information. Instead, jot down notes that might prove useful down the line.
5. Turn on the Charm
Abagnale treated everyone with generous amounts of politeness, charm, and class. His charm staved off suspicion that he wasn’t who he said he was and made people very willing to help him. He found that if you’re polite and good-humoured, people will give you the benefit of the doubt and lots of second-chances.
6. Shutup and Observe
The best thing you can do when you’re in a situation where you’re out of your depth is to be extremely conservative with both your actions and your words. Say little and listen a lot. As the famous saying goes: “It is better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”