I received a wonderful compliment today. I was talking with a prospect who became a client [insert happy dance here], and she said one reason she was looking forward to our working together was that we’re real and authentic. In other words, there was no hiding behind masks, no putting on airs, no trying to be someone other than who we actually are.
It got me to thinking: How often during written or spoken communication do we try to “spin” who we are and what we do?
I’m not talking about putting our best foot forward and claiming our legitimate strengths; that’s simply our right and our responsibility as business owners. I’m talking about choosing to fudge the truth, withhold opinions, or squelch our natural personality in order to present the face we think the prospect is most willing to buy from.
There’s no doubt that, if we want to stay in business, we get to be respectful of different values and perspectives. However, at the same time we need to be genuine in portraying who we are. That’s being respectful of ourselves.
It might be an interesting exercise to monitor yourself during your next meeting with a prospect. Listen for the mental back story that’s (perhaps) running on an endless loop in your brain. You know what this irritating, strength-sucking voice sounds like:
“Oh, jeez – I wonder if I sounded dopey when I said that.”
“I wonder if she thinks I laugh too much.”
“Maybe I should have said I’d be willing to give him a discount, even though my past clients have told me my service would have been worth twice the price.”
“Does she think I’m too casually dressed?”
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this – I don’t think we’d work together well at all. But maybe it would be okay. I can put up with a certain amount of hassle…”
And on and on, ad infinitum.
When you don’t let your real self come through, whether in your writing or your speech, you’re not only introducing stress into your own life, but you’re actually doing kind of a bait-and-switch on your prospect. What happens when the real you finally makes an appearance? This is not likely to be an enjoyable surprise for anyone.
On the other hand, being authentic actually conveys a sense of personal power that is typically very attractive to the right kind of client, and it’s a great stress management strategy. You don’t have to manage your actions or try to manage anyone else’s perceptions; you get to just focus on how you can best serve the client.
So my question for you is this: How do you show up in the world? Are you essentially the same person with friends as you are with your clients? (And, no, I’m not talking about wearing your flip-flops and hole-y jeans to a client meeting.)
As my brilliant WordQueen partner says, “How you are anywhere is how you are everywhere” – so dump the masks and let the real you breathe.
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