Stop Trying to Fool Everyone
When I was a freshman in college I was obsessed with projecting confidence. I did so no matter what – it was a way of hiding my inhibitions, fears and various hangups. The problem was that people were not fooled. It came off exactly as what it was: false bravado. My better friends called me on it. They wanted me to be me. Not who I wanted to be.
It took some time to let down the defenses I had built up but I gradually discovered that people connected with me better when I admitted to my issues or mistakes, when I admitted to being scared, embarrassed or jealous. People related to me better because these are actual human sentiments and everyone has them in spades. Nobody relates to Super Heroes unless they are completely deluded.
So far this week we have talked about doing really hard things. We started with my stab at fasting and moved on to overworked Koreans. Today it is time to get real and realize that as good as it may be to work your butt off to get things right… you also need to get ballsy about your flaws.
Don’t keep trying to hide them. Everyone has them. YOU can be the one who is comfortable enough in your own skin to stop falling over yourself apologizing for your every imperfection.
Being ballsy about showing your flaws can even be lucrative. Allow one of my favorite sites, trendwatching.com to explain it:
“Consumers don’t expect brands to be flawless. In fact, consumers will embrace brands that are FLAWSOME*: brands that are still brilliant despite having flaws; even being flawed (and being open about it) can be awesome.”
Who stands to win in today’s environment? “Brands that show some empathy, generosity, humility, flexibility, maturity, humor, and (dare we say it) some character and humanity. ” trendwatching, March 2012 edition
It all boils down to transparency. People want the real story. Whether it be about a company or about you personally. Everyone has issues so if you admit to them and show them along with your positive attributes, people will be less suspicious and much more likely to focus on what’s good about you. It makes sense. It is human nature.
In February’s issue of Monocle (A Briefing On Global Affairs, Business, Culture & Design), British design and cultural critic, Stephen Bayley wrote an essay titled “On Charm”. It’s an awesome essay, peppered with zingers starting with this one as the opening sentence: “I’ll tell you one thing you never hear. It’s this. “I wish I were less charming.”
A statement he made that speaks to the importance of being OK with flaws hit me hard:
“Power is rarely charming, vulnerability always is.”
This principle works on a personal level and a business level. Humans connect with vulnerability regardless of their culture. Here are some examples of companies that have allowed themselves to be vulnerable and yet reap great rewards:
Four Seasons Hotels giving reviews on Facebook and other social media prominent placement on their site – good or bad.
Smashbox Social Shop (a beauty brand) puts Facebook “Likes” and comments right next to their product listings.
Miracle Whip openly admits they are not for everyone with celebrities raving for or raving against the product on the brand’s YouTube channel, viewers could vote if they loved or hated the sauce. 60,000 loved it, 4,000 hated it. Being vulnerable works.
What is there to learn here? Accessibility is key to connecting with people across cultural and other barriers. If you insist on projecting an air of perfection, most people will call you on your fakeness.
Confidence despite your flaws, on the other hand, is extremely attractive to others. Everyone expects you to have issues so if you are part of the tiny minority of people that is not obsessed with hiding problems, people will naturally respect you. Give it a try.