Language, that is the use of foul language, inevitably comes up on posts in my news feed. Mostly, I tune them out, since they tend to be expressions of narcissism. But I read a post, today, about someone going through yet another rationalization about their language choice.
His argument to use the language he wanted included growing up in a “rough environment,” and that it was just the way he felt most comfortable expressing himself. Ironically, he self censored those words in the video justifying his language. It had me rolling on the floor, laughing.
“Tell me again, what do you believe? Who is your ‘authentic self'”
As I read his discussion, I could almost hear the old recordings of Sammie Davis Jr., singing, “I gotta be me….” in the background.
These discussions seem to have a few things in common. They are incredibly self centered, “me” focused, conversations. They are somehow cloaked in, “I’ve got to be authentic.”
But to me, language has about as much to do with authenticity as how we each dress and choose to present ourselves. Too often, they are more representative of who we would like to see ourselves as, or how we would like others to see us, than our “authentic selves.”
I really don’t give a damn (oops) about the language people use. Those who know me, know I can sometimes be pretty foul.
But I worry about how we, as sales professionals or leaders, limit our effectiveness and impact, when we make everything about ourselves, how we express ourselves and how we engage our customers or people.
Implicit in the “I gotta be me,” discussion is narcissism. But the reality, if we are going to be successful in engaging our customers or our people, our narcissistic behaviors are seldom effective.
If we are to be effective and impactful, we have to engage our customers and people the way they want to be engaged. If anything we do makes our customers uncomfortable, then we are failing! Whether it’s bad language, how we dress, what we say, how we manage the meeting; if it diminishes our abilities to connect with them, we have failed.
As I look at great leaders, and great sales people, they make people and customers feel comfortable, they want to talk, they want to engage. The common thing I see in these top performers is they do everything they can to meet people and customers where they are. They make the customer or their people the center of their attention and of everything they do.
We have too many examples of failure by doing the opposite. Whether it is the language we choose to use, which turns the audience off. Or whether it is focusing on our self interests (which is another form of this narcissism) and not the customers’ or our people.
None of this is about our language, or how we dress, or the “image” we create of ourselves, or about out needs to make quota/get a PO, or our focus on our products, our goals and objectives.
Whether we are leaders or sales people, the only way we achieve our goals is through our people and our customers. If we can’t engage them in ways that are meaningful and impactful to them, we fail them and we fail ourselves.
Afterword: There is an amusing/insightful articles with a slightly different point of view: http://time.com/4602680/profanity-research-why-we-swear/
Humorous/Self Revelatory Afterword: Someone just reminded me of my own discomfort with this. Those who know me, know I always always show up in a white shirt (french cuffs), suit, tie, wingtips. Whether it’s part of my “image” or I’m too cheap to diversify my wardrobe, or it’s a mental crutch, I always always show up in the same uniform.
That is until I realized how uncomfortable and distracting it was to people. Now I’m more careful. I don’t want anything to detract from the impact of a meeting. It may seem silly, but I am very uncomfortable wearing jeans and a tee shirt to meetings, but if that’s what it takes, that’s what I will wear. Because the meeting isn’t about me, it’s about achieving something with the customer and they have to feel comfortable to do that.