As you are no doubt unaware, my older brother – my much older brother – turned 70 this past week.
And so, in celebration of this truly once in a lifetime event, assorted family members are gathering tonight in celebration at a restaurant in Harvard Square, Cambridge.
Harvard Square can be a busy spot. Finding a place to park (we live too far to have any other option) is difficult.
How difficult? Well, let’s just say that on a Friday night, you’d have an easier time getting admitted to Harvard than finding a parking spot on the street.
But as my friends down south like to say, this ain’t my first rodeo. So I called the restaurant to inquire as to whether they had any arrangements with nearby parking facilities.
Sure enough, they did. Sort of.
Because when I asked, the friendly woman on the phone said, “We offer ‘partial validation’ with the lot across the street.”
Now you know me; I don’t pass up the chance to demonstrate how insanely witty I am, and so I said, “Partial validation? You mean like just the driver’s side?”
Her response? Deafening silence. Not even a polite titter.
Finally, after what felt like about five minutes of dead air, she simply repeated the phrase, apparently assuming that I did not have full command of the English language.
Speaking Up Feels Risky
Jokes don’t always work.
Sometimes, as was the case with my restaurant friend, they fall flat. Other times, thankfully, you get a big laugh.
Which means you’ve got two options: Say nothing and risk nothing. Or give it a shot and see what happens.
Of course, this phenomenon isn’t limited to joke-telling. Any time you share a point of view – write a newsletter, give a presentation, post a video, comment on someone’s blog, etc. – you run the risk of striking out.
Someone might object. Or ignore you. Or laugh (not in a good way).
And so, many people choose the safer route. I understand it, but I don’t recommend it, especially if you want to be remembered and respected as a professional service provider (hint: you do).
Let the Chips Fall
Two reasons why speaking your mind in an authentic way is a good thing in a professional setting:
#1. It helps others decide if they like who you are and how you think.
The fact that you have read this far today suggests that you and I are somewhat on the same wavelength.
Others, who may feel that personal stories and dumb jokes in a business newsletter have no place, have already stopped reading, if not unsubscribed entirely.
That’s fine. Our personal styles represent a filtering mechanism. The people who don’t like my approach to writing this newsletter would be even more unhappy if we tried to work together.
But if you don’t share the authentic you – in terms of style, belief, and point of view – the mismatches don’t know to run away and the soulmates don’t have any way to recognize a kindred spirit.
And let me tell you, kindred spirits make great clients.
#2. It helps you figure out what you actually believe.
Novelist Henry Miller said, “I write to find out what I am writing about.”
Voicing an opinion is not just for the benefit of others. It’s an exercise in deciding what you actually think and believe.
Each time you create content, even something as simple as commenting on a blog post, you are sharpening your understanding of your own perspective.
The more you do it, the clearer things become.
As you gain more certainty and fluency in sharing your point of view, clients and prospective clients can hear that. Some of them hire you as a result.
Here’s the bottom line.
Whether telling a joke or putting a thought out into the world (business-related or otherwise), the risk is generally small, and the pain, if it occurs at all, is almost always short-lived.
The real danger as a professional is in fading into the background, either because you only communicate in plain vanilla, or because you say nothing at all.
- Have you ever been partially validated? Was it at a rodeo?
- What ice cream flavor describes the way you like to communicate?
- What is your favorite medium for creating and sharing content?
Share your answers below…