You’ll hear me quote Les Brown a lot. He’s amazing and he’s definitely had an impact on everything I do. One of the things he told me is: “It’s hard to see the picture when you’re in the frame!” And, that’s important in a lot of different ways. It’s one of the reasons it’s so important to have a coach. One of the biggest values any coach brings is simply that they’re not in the frame with you!
And, when it comes to being relatable well, “It’s hard to see the picture when you’re in the frame!” How we see ourselves is usually different than how others see us and that has a big impact on being relatable. Let me show you what I mean.
People Can’t Relate to a Guru
My friend and mentor Craig Valentine, the 1999 World Champion of Speaking, correctly pointed out to me that people do not like to be “taught” by a “guru.” His advice to me was, “don’t make yourself special, make the process special.” In other words, don’t make it about you and how wonderful and brilliant you are, that will just alienate people. Make it about the process you used that led to success. For example, much of the success I’ve had is because of the “process” I use: Find a great coach and be coachable...
What I’ve noticed is that everyone, including me sometimes, is looking for a way to get themselves off the hook by thinking that you have something they don’t have. My client Melinda Richter, the Global Head of Johnson and Johnson Innovations JLABS is gorgeous, in great shape, brilliant and powerful. It would be easy to think that everything was just handed to her since she makes it look so easy. But, when people hear her story they find out that she grew up in extreme poverty and she worked tremendously hard for everything she has. And, as a woman in what I think many would say is still a man’s world, she deals with all kinds of headwinds on a daily basis. That’s why, when I first heard her story I did a little digging and suggested that she actually mention how she grew up. At first, that was terrifying to her. She had spent her entire life hiding that fact! But, you be the judge, I think it’s one of the keys to why her story is so compelling and why she generates such “Emotional Credibility®” when she talks. Here is her talk at a Phillips Event at SXSW. See what you think.
The Bragging Billionaire
Recently, I worked with a really wonderful guy. He’s brilliant, kind, has a very big heart and he confessed to me that he thought it was his job to get up and essentially brag. He felt like he needed to trumpet the accomplishments of his very dedicated employees and the difference they make in the world. He hasn’t always been a billionaire. He has that “monkey mind” voice in his head just like everyone and he wanted to “establish his credibility.” He wasn’t’ thinking about the fact that, since he heads up a multi-billion dollar company, people think he has something they don’t have; people think he must be special somehow.
After we talked he came back with a totally different approach. He opened with some of the difficulties he faced, some of the things he failed at, and shared some of his insecurities. All of a sudden he came across as human, relatable, and when he finally shared some of his successes, along with the processes that he used, people were excited by his success and they were excited to learn what “processes” he thought had worked for him. It was a completely different experience. And, I guaranteed him that his willingness to share the authentic, vulnerable aspects of his journey will open up that space for many around him. He’ll be surprised and delighted by the new things he hears. And, that will work for you, too!
Remember, Everyone Has a Little bit of Insecurity
You don’t have to be a billionaire. When you’re on the stage, or when you’re the leader, or when you’ve just stepped into the spotlight it’s worth remembering that even the most fully self-realized people still have that little “monkey mind” telling them that they aren’t as good as you because you’re on the stage, you’re more accomplished than they are, you’re cooler than they are, whatever it might be. So, how can bring your authentic, vulnerable self to light? What could you share about you that would let them know you’re human, too? It cannot be inauthentic, or just to manipulate them into liking you, it has to be real. But, you sharing that thing, and perhaps how it influenced why you care about what you’re sharing, will make you relatable and what that opens up will amaze you.
Being relatable, I believe, comes from honest and authenticity in telling your story. Being willing to share the emotional things that we often hide out of pride, fear of judgment, or shame. We all know that actual human beings have ups and downs and failures along with successes. So, when you’ve got a story about the time you had the courage to make it through, the tenacity to survive, the big win, or some other fill-in-the-good-ending here, it is important that you season that with what it took, the difficult parts, the times you wanted to give up, but didn’t. When you do that, the reality of your story will move everyone. And, some bit of your story will mirror someone else’s experience, and they’ll be utterly captivated. You’ll have touched at least one life, probably many more. And, maybe you’ll give them the courage to share authentically in their life, and the ripple will continue.