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Be yourself!

17 May 2011
Oscar Wilde

Be yourself!

“Be yourself , everyone else is already taken” Oscar Wilde, playwright, author.

Building great business relationships requires us to show up as ourselves – with authenticity. Yet when I’m out and about meeting people in the world of business I see lots of behaviours that don’t seem quite right. It’s as if people feel they need to be something or someone different in order to be perceived in the “right way – whatever that is.

If I’m picking this up just from observation, what must it be like on the receiving end, in a conversation?

So what is it that stops us showing people our true selves? Perhaps we’re approaching business relationships from the wrong angle.

If we see business conversations primarily as opportunities to market ourselves, let people know what we’re good at or what we can do, we can find ourselves pushing to be seen as someone interesting, relevant, and exciting – having “USPs” (unique selling points) to use a sales/marketing term. This puts us under great pressure and is what often results in behaviours that aren’t authentic.

Yet in order to be influential, others need to see us as valuable in their world and in their context. And this starts with building rapport and common ground, getting to know what’s important to each other – best accomplished through simple human-to-human conversations. This is not the time for a “60 second pitch”!

How do we get started? Asking good questions that help the other person open up and tell us about themselves (“what’s your interest in…”, “what did you think of the speaker?”, “tell me more about…”) and then listening – really listening – to their answers; seeking areas of common ground (these may not be work-related;) and building a sense of “we” – a shared interest in the conversation.

As long as our mindset is genuine interest and a real desire to get to know the other person, rather than whether they are the “right” person or what we can do for each other, the pressure is off and we can relax and be ourselves; which is likely to be a much more pleasant experience for everyone – and provide the basis for a relationship to build and nurture.

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