One of the best and most poignant speeches I have ever heard was from a Slovakian guy who spoke about his journey into Entrepreneurship in broken English.
He had been invited to speak at a conference full of the bigwigs of the start-up world and stood up on stage admitting to everyone how anxious he was feeling. The speakers amongst the audience breathed a sigh of relief (me included), we were not alone.
He pulled at the heartstrings without using any type of manipulation or self-healing on stage and came across more genuine than anyone who had prepared a perfect powerpoint presentation.
He was the only speaker that stayed in my mind after the conference was over.
He had no tactic and simply shared what was on his mind without pitching or selling himself in a particular way. He had built a business which was successful but didn’t focus on patting himself on the back for this. Instead, he spoke about his elderly grandfather who had inspired him in his darkest moments.
You could hear a pin drop in the silence that reigned throughout his speech.
All of this retold in a thick Eastern European accent which was far from perfect and his attire casual instead of impressive or slick.
He got his message across loud and clear in a seemingly effortless manner. Far from polished. The authenticity he radiated without needing to impress was palpable and this is what made it so unique and memorable.
It made me reflect on how far we go to create the perfect image, speech, website or launch, but miss the one essential factor. The human and emotional connection to those we are meant to be serving.
This doesn’t mean that we show up at an event badly prepared or unprofessional in our demeanour, it just means we quit trying to impress and build relationships and connection instead.
As a coach, I have worked with clients who’s biggest fear is that ‘they will be found out’.
Not for an extramarital affair, murder or a burglary.
Their biggest fear is that others will find out they are imperfect and don’t know it all.
It is a real fear which grips those who are in the midst of it, similarly to an addiction which unless you’re feeding it, continues to ask for attention. The fear of being found out for being imperfect, flawed and not having the answer to every question being asked.
I observe this more often within those who have left the corporate world, where ‘vulnerability’ is almost a dirty word.
It never surprises me to see a bunch of corporate employees pacing outside the impressive buildings at Canary Wharf in London smoking cigarettes before 9 am. I can only imagine the stress they are under. Not only to complete a hard days work but to do so in a way that doesn’t allow for imperfection or flaws to seep in.
It is hard to drop all preconceived ideas of what is believed others need from you.
What would happen if you called yourself out on your imperfections?
Imagine if you could be more fluid, less measured, more informal and say ‘I don’t know’ more often, allowing others to see you not as always formidable but just human.
Imagine what this would do to your stress levels?
This doesn’t mean turning yourself into a buffoon overnight and one who can’t or won’t answer a question.
There are times when we really don’t know, when we are in the midst of uncertainty, when we have to develop the curiosity of a child to truly understand what is occurring.
It’s not by chance that the ‘know it alls’ at school were often not the most popular kids.
Who could connect with a perfect kid when we were all struggling to attain a decent grade in school.
I had a client recently who was struggling to attend a conference that could really gain him some great connections and clients. His focus was that his credentials needed to look good, he needed to look polished and let others know what he could offer them.
He had never been successful in conferences because he had way too much thinking about it and too much strategy getting in the way of connection. Yet he expected business to magically occur through this.
He was geared towards his own sense of self-importance. Turning up at this conference ready to give a perfect pitch and create an impression with as many people as he could, armed with perfect business cards and leaflets. I could totally identify with behaving in this way in the past.
I reminded him that it’s important to connect more by being present, listen, converse, get to know others well, build and develop relationships. Let others know you on a human level.
The question everyone wants to know when they meet you is ‘Can you help me?’ not ‘How perfect are you?’.
I have been helped and mentored by truly flawed and imperfect beings, who at times got it wrong, but their care and connection to their purpose was clear. This is all that mattered to me.
There is a great relief in my client’s faces when I tell them that sometimes I don’t know an answer to their question, that I am not perfect and I certainly have not always made great decisions or led a blissful life in the past.
Essentially, I’m not required to be perfect in order to facilitate someone’s journey. I simply need to listen, ask questions, be real, call myself out when I get it wrong and accompany clients to where they want to go with love and care.
This demonstrates for my clients an important and often life-changing lesson. That they can be vulnerable and imperfect too. They don’t need to pretend because I simply don’t care for perfection, I’m just seeking truth, their truth, so that we can build on that foundation.
The mistake that we all make is to impress those were are desperately trying to connect with, this builds a wall but little else.
When we are viewed as flawed, imperfect, vulnerable and real, it allows others to drop their guard, their defences and relate to you on a totally different stratosphere. This doesn’t mean professionalism is thrown out of the window. You can still keep boundaries, contracts, be professional, yet show humanity and connection within this.
To be human is to commit errors, endeavour to forgive and release judgement.
Perhaps in the Victorian era when people had to keep a stiff upper lip and pretend all was well, it might have worked. Currently, people want to feel an emotional connection to you and what you’re selling. They want to feel something that goes beyond a slick website or promotional material.
If you can provide them with this, you will be memorable, not because you’re forcing an impression, but because you’re removing what’s getting in the way of accessing someone’s humanity.
Originally published at www.micheleattiascoaching.com