You know me. Some people write about gratitude this time of year. I write about communication. Specifically, about how easy it is to go wrong when we’re speaking to attract clients or referrals, get a promotion, or land a brand new job. In any of those situations, we want the audience to think we know our stuff. We hope they believe we’re experts they can trust. And we want them to like us too.
One sure way to have a more powerful, professional presence is to fully occupy our space. And we can’t possibly do that if we’re slouching or slumping or hunching. Sitting at a conference table, or at our desk in front of a Zoom screen, we make a stronger impression when we’re grounded, centered, and upright. That means both feet are flat on the floor and our seat is firmly in the chair. Our spine is straight, our shoulders are back and down, and we hold our head up high. It’s probably not a surprise that the men in a meeting are more likely than women to take up space. Sometimes to a fault.
Love him or loathe him, you have to admit Donald Trump is brilliant at capturing attention, creating enthusiasm, and generating solid, unwavering support from a big chunk of the American electorate. He vanquished a boatload of primary opponents and he’s held his own against Hillary Clinton. All that in spite of editorials blasting him, commercials calling him names, and well-reasoned critiques from Republicans who by rights should be on his side. What gives?
We need to show up. Women of “a certain age” often complain that they’ve somehow become invisible. You’ll hear 44-year-olds say nobody notices them anymore! I’m saying we don’t have to settle into invisibility, no matter how many years we have behind us. There are steps we can take on the outside and on the inside to make sure we’re seen and heard. We can make the kind of impact we’ve always made. Get noticed the way we always have. And let go of the impulse to hide our age from the rest of the world.
I’m recovering from surgery. If all went according to plan, I have a couple of newly realigned vertebrae, with pins to keep them where they belong as they heal. Fortunately, I also have meds to keep me from crawling the walls while that healing happens. Spinal surgery is a little scary. It’s been four years since my last experience with post-surgical rehab and my observations about how easily we can catch each other’s moods, for better or worse. And emotional states are contagious You know how you’ll see someone yawn and right away yawn yourself? The same thing goes on with facial expressions, even quick, subtle ones. Postures, gestures, and tones of voice can have similar impact.
People assigned to talk with a stranger enjoy themselves more than those who keep themselves to themselves. Yes, even self-described introverts tended to have a better time than they would have predicted when they break the ice and start a conversation. When it comes to these ordinary interactions in our daily lives, in general, folks underestimate how much they’ll enjoy longer talks. They underestimate how much they’ll enjoy deeper exchanges. And they underestimate how much they’ll like the person they’re talking to. And get this. People even underestimated how positive a compliment would make the other person feel.
How do you think about your business or your career right now? Are you relaunching after a pandemic slowdown? Cultivating new leads? Building back better? If you were part of the Great Resignation, you might be looking for your next gig. Is it a job search? Or a hunt for the perfect position? Do you want to climb the corporate ladder? Or strike out on an entrepreneurial path of your own? Have you been on the fast track or stuck in neutral? The metaphors we use speak volumes about our attitudes, beliefs, and feelings. And they often have a big impact on the outcomes we achieve.
What problem do your clients or customers have?
If they’re like most of us, they have plenty of problems.
You likely solve one specific problem for them, though. What is that problem? The one that nags at them. The one they know they need to solve if they’re going to succeed. The one that practically begs for your expertise. Listening to business owners who are looking to launch or grow their companies lately, I’ve noticed how many of them struggle with “What problem do your customers have?” Their responses are surprisingly mushy, hesitant … they seem to be talking around the issue, feeling their way toward an acceptable answer. No wonder they’re running into roadblocks as they seek funding or other support … or clients. It’s hard to get a handle on what they do … and for whom. Much less on why anyone would want it.
Ever wish you could be a little bit different? Who doesn’t, right? “If only I had that skill.” “How come I can’t do that?“ “Too bad I don’t have the innate talent my colleague seems to have for …” well, for whatever they’re especially good at. A thousand times I’ve looked at someone who is well-organized, focused, and strategic—and fervently wished to be more like them. Sadly, those just aren’t my gifts. Except here’s the thing. It’s not really sad at all.
When was the last time you called to touch base with a friend for no reason at all? Or you sent a text with no mission in mind other than to let someone know you were thinking of them? Or you shot off a quick email, just to say hi? You might guess those random contacts would be unwelcome interruptions in their busy day. Who has time to respond to a quick hello, a remark about the weather, or a waving emoji? Turns out if that’s your assumption, you’re mistaken. (And I was right there with you.)