You’ve probably cooked with it and I’m dead certain you’ve eaten it. One thing you’ve probably noticed as you’ve done either is that raw garlic can have an unpleasant, sharp, hotness about it. If you turn up the heat and try to cook that out and aren’t careful you can burn it, which makes it incredibly bitter. Even when you cook it carefully, if you do your prep work on the garlic too early and it sits, the flavor can be off. Who thought something so small could be so difficult!
The root of the problem is something called allicin, which is a compound that forms when you cut into the cells and continues to build as it sits. The way to handle the build-up is either not to let this happen in the first place, giving it immediate attention by cooking it or to put the chopped garlic into something acidic such as lemon juice to convert the allicin into a few more mellow compounds with long, hard to spell names that also form when the garlic is cooked (they’re sulfides for you chemists out there). You’d do that for a salad dressing, for example, where you’re using raw garlic.
I realize this is a business blog so you’re probably wondering what the heck garlic has to do with your business. What came to my mind was how we deal with other people – customers, clients, co-workers, and bosses. Once something injures them – as when we cut garlic – the defense mechanisms spring into action – just as garlic forms allicin. The longer we delay dealing with the situation, the more of what we don’t want builds up – allicin or anger, in the case of the humans. We need to handle problems quickly, either by resolving them or by putting them into a context that allows us the time we need to formulate the solution. Reacting with intense heat – burning the garlic – usually doesn’t work too well. In the case of the aforementioned groups, letting them know you hear and understand their situation and that you are working to resolve it is the equivalent of the gentle heat needed to turn raw garlic into something fragrant and delicious.
I don’t advise mixing my metaphors here – dealing with a teed-off person face to face after eating garlic isn’t going to help matters. However, the lesson we can learn from the plant just might!