There’s a bird that sings outside my garden as I awaken each morning. Its song is so perfect that I could listen to it for hours.
I can’t see it, I can only hear it.
There is an elegance about it. Powerful, gentle, melodic, humble, and creates the best ambience to wake up to. We have never met, yet it doesn’t care about impressing me, it just expresses the song of the day.
In complete contrast, a selection of birds emerge from behind the bushes in the afternoon and bold as brass, stand in the middle of my garden singing, all fighting to be heard, and it’s not a pretty sound. Too loud, too brash and not at all to my liking.
It reminds me of how we might be under the misapprehension that if we could only shout louder than the rest in our industry, we will be heard; yet often a more subdued, but authentic stance can be even more impactful.
Communicating should be natural, otherwise, it feels forced, unnatural and frankly, pretty unattractive.
It’s so much better when it contains the elements of humility and grace as it is then received completely differently from those around us. How we show up even before we utter our first syllable is a means of communication.
Our inner stance is either one of expressing or one or impressing, with various levels in between.
Impressing emerges from the ego; it stems from insecurity and from a shaky foundation, it’s inauthentic and places a barrier between you and the other person. Simply because the moment you enter the interaction, it feels as if the person is talking at you, not with you.
There is such a preoccupation with how they come across, that there is no room to engage anyone else, they are the star of the show, which can be pretty repellant.
On the flip side;
Expressing is emerging from a soulful place, it has no other purpose but to share with no care about how they are coming across and is the glue that binds you and the other person together. I personally enjoy spending time with people who communicate on this level.
Ego-less, grounded, laid back and a ‘what you see is what you get’ interaction.
I recently went to a one day workshop given by Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote the book and subsequent movie ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’
The writer has become a New York Times bestseller, has sold thousands of copies of her book, and had a blockbuster movie created from her story. Even more importantly, she was rewarded with the actress Julia Roberts playing her part in the movie.
As she entered the stage, I observed as she appeared in a totally relaxed attire and was possibly the most ‘ego-less’ speaker I have ever heard. She even used the words ‘I don’t know’ a number of times during her talk. She admitted how she was imperfect and didn’t know it all, shared her difficult moments, her failures, challenges, and created a space in the room that allowed us all to engage in this way of being.
Her humility was so impressive yet she was still being totally expressive.
She switched from attempting to impress into successfully making a difference, and my life is still recovering from the effects of having been in her presence.
Steve Chandler, Coach and Author of ‘Time Warrior’ stated:
Stop winning friends and influencing people — This entire orientation to life and society and community (winning people over) is a hangover from childhood when the grownups had all the power and all the money. They needed to be charmed and manipulated for us to get what we wanted. We learned to do that. It became second nature. But carrying that into adulthood leads to mediocrity and misery.
As a speaker, I have had the opportunity to be around others in the industry, and I observe so much impressing at events that I often cringe as I watch from afar.
I have been present so many times when speakers have consistently name-dropped, tried to sound impressive and trying too hard to be liked. I look around the room at these events and see the audience, eyes closing, drifting in and out of the talk.
The audience has one question only.
Can you help me?
They don’t care about which top-notch professional you’ve worked with, or how many multiple six figures you’ve made. They say do, but they really don’t, because although it all sounds wonderful, it will quickly become erased from peoples minds when the next speaker comes on.
People want to be touched, moved, they want to feel hope, possibility, and want something to change in their internal world when hearing the talk.
They want to transition from information to transformation.
Unless it’s a scientific, legal or medical convention, most of the audience want to come away with something that will help them navigate their life better.
A few months ago, I was asked to speak at a mental health event in Paris where the audience would be Psychologists, Psychiatrists and mental health professionals.
I had left the mental health world of Psychotherapy a few years ago to become a Coach, so you can imagine how daunting this prospect was, and I was already feeling judged before I had even set one foot on the stage.
I sat down and began to create a speech for the event, and once complete, I began to practice it, yet it just didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel good rehearsing it, and there was something that didn’t feel aligned to who I am. There was an incongruence with it that was difficult to pinpoint.
It was then that I noticed that I was attempting to make myself seem just as important and relevant as those sitting in the audience who were highly academic and could boast a number of PhD’s to their name.
So I sat down and asked myself one simple question.
If you weren’t focused on impressing the audience, what would you want to share?
I thought for a few moments and then sat down and re-wrote the entire speech.
As I wrote it, I focused on the challenges mental health professionals face each day with stress, burnout, leading a personal life with its ups and downs whilst dealing with their client’s personal issues. I decided to share my personal story of moving from psychotherapy to coaching, bringing some humour into the notion of this transition, but more importantly, connecting to the audience.
The truth is that we are so much more than professionals. If you strip away the degrees and academic papers, there is a human being underneath it.
It works the same way in a coaching consultation with my clients.
When a client attends a session, I believe that one of the biggest fears they have is that they will be shown to be imperfect underneath all the layers. Why would they want to disclose how challenging their life is, or airing parts of them that are imperfect unless they believe they are in a safe, none-judgmental space?
In order to be receptive and coachable, they have to suspend the impressing.
They have to get real.
This part can be challenging for some people whose lives depend on creating an impression of grandiosity, but in a session, there is nowhere to hide.
What I want them to understand is that a large proportion of the population walk around with a mask pretending that all is fine in their life, you only have to spend 5 minutes on Facebook and Instagram to see this.
It troubles me to see social media profiles showcasing the most incredible life, and when I meet someone face to face within a coaching context, they remove the impressing and reveal the truth about their life. I have felt disturbed to discover that at times there is quite a discrepancy between a social media profile and reality.
It’s very easy to create an impressive online profile, but much tougher to stand for something in the flesh.
So why are we even trying to compete with peoples made up lives?
I personally can’t relate to the impressive-looking shares on social media. Each to their own, but I simply can’t and won’t do it.
Its the one part of coaching that I want to sell off to the highest bidder, as it’s just not congruent with who I am, and I cringe as I watch coaches in my industry do the ‘impressive’ how many 6 figures they earnt this month, again and again.
You also don’t get a lawyer, doctor or accountant, posting a video online sharing pictures of their first-class air ticket to Barbados, or talking about how many times they hit six figures that month, I find it pretty tacky.
If other professionals don’t, why have coaches in my industry decided to take this brash, loud stance?
When you express from an ego-less stance, you give permission for others to feel safe to do so too when they’re in your company; it takes away the complexity of being in a relationship with another, it peels away the surface level.
We can all identify people we feel so relaxed spending time with and can totally be ourselves with, and others who we have to suspend our true self when we’re with them.
Imagine if people could feel relaxed when they are in our company, so totally themselves, they don’t feel the need to put on this made-up persona because we care so much about connecting and making a difference, that we stop caring about impressing.
Reflect on your life, is there one area where you attempt to be more impressive than expressive?
If this article resonated with you, you can read more chapters like these in my latest book Look Inside: Stop Seeking Start Livingavailable now on Amazon.
If you want to connect with me to share insights from this article, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.