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. Its 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. I was hugely impacted by her presence, 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.
She was so impressive by being totally expressive, and my life is still recovering from the effects of having been in her presence.
Steve Chandler, Coach and Author of ‘Right Now’ 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.
We want to switch from trying to make an impression to trying to make a difference.
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 impressive, 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.
When I’m booked by an events organiser to give a talk, the first question they ask is ‘What are you going to speak about?’
I respond with;
‘I won’t know until you tell me about your audience?
They are often taken aback by the response, as most other speakers, give the name of their signature talk, no questions asked.
Before I even create content, I want to get to know the audience profile, who are they, what do they struggle with, what are they coming to these events for, what do they want to come away with?
This helps me to create value; as the talk isn’t about showcasing my expertise and wisdom, it’s about suspending myself and attending to the audience, as one attends a guest who they value.
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 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, but it just didn’t feel right, I didn’t feel good saying it, and there was something that didn’t feel comfortable. There was an incongruence with it that was difficult to pinpoint.
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.
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, you recognise theres a human being underneath it.
It works the same way in a coaching consultation with a client.
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 they protect themselves with. Why would they want to disclose how challenging their life is, or even airing the 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. One of the first things I want them to understand is that a large proportion of the population are walking around with a mask pretending that all is fine in the world. So it’s actually okay to share that you’re imperfect — because we all are.
It troubles me at times to observe 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 truth and reality.
So why are we even trying to compete with peoples made up lives?
It’s very easy to create an impressive online profile, but much tougher to stand for something in the flesh.
As I developed my coaching business over the years, the biggest challenge I find as a coach, is that I don’t have a desire to shout louder than the rest. I have no interest in impressing, I purely want to connect with people who interest me, have conversations, and if it makes sense to move forward, we continue into a paid programme together.
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 its just not congruent with who I am, and I cringe as I watch coaches in my industry do this again and again.
You don’t get a lawyer, doctor or accountant, posting a video online talking about their lowest moments, sharing pictures of their first class air ticket, 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 decided to take this brash, loud stance?
A few years ago, I attended a one-day leadership workshop for coaches, and as the day progressed, I watched in curiosity as all the participants were sharing their stories. Some wanted to shout out their life mission, some were oversharing and others were interrupting as a way of trying to get their point across. I observed with curiosity around the room as everyone was trying to show their expertise and attempting to impress.
I wished at that point that I had a volume control so I could turn it down. When I looked at the side of the room I observed one man sitting quietly, just observing. He participated silently. Yet he was the only one of the participants who became memorable to me.
So much so, that a few days later I randomly contacted him as he had invited more curiosity in me than anyone else in that room. I was curious about his stance, and I wanted to be in conversation with this person and find out more about him. We scheduled a call and spent almost two hours speaking.
One week later, I hired him to become my coach for a year.
He performed no sales technique on me whatsoever, we simply had a conversation, but after less than an hour, I intuitively knew that I wanted to be around the presence of this man as I built up my coaching business. I sensed that he had much to teach me about humility, silence and presence, that a group of coaches shouting to be heard just could not teach me this.
Our work together taught me that I could embrace silence and begin to give a voice to my self-expression, not from the ego, but from a soulful place.
Through his presence and by osmosis, it seeped into my being. It brought a beautiful element into my life of truth and of not always using words or content. I had always believed that silence was weak, but I found a power in silence that was life-changing.
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, there is a fear that we are not good enough. Imagine if people could feel relaxed when they are in our company, 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?
Originally published at www.micheleattiascoaching.com