The modern business world is all about conveying a lot of information digitally for those times when you can’t be face to face with your customer. It is the perfect opportunity for a massive company to bring a down-to-earth personable set of interactions to people who they hope to serve, and it’s a chance to say to those people, “Hey, we see you over there and we want to serve you. Come join up and we can help.”
There’s effort required to make this happen. Whether talking internally with employees or externally with customers and partners, a lot of what has to happen comes from being stronger in your ability to express yourself and also to reflect more of who you really are and what matters to you in your interactions and communication. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but you can definitely learn to reach people and interact better, with a little advice.
Self Expression is Really About Other People
I should clarify that self expression as it relates to business is about other people. If you’re simply making art, then that’s yours to figure out. But if you want to reach, connect, and motivate an interaction between people whether inside or outside of a company, that’s about making sure the person you’re trying to reach gets what they need in the process.
Here’s a quick checklist to help guide your thinking about your own communications. You can use this for making videos, for writing emails, compositing an article and more.
- Start with the goal – All interaction must have a point. If you’re sitting someone down for some guidance, then your goal is to guide that person towards a better path. If your goal is to get your team to sell more warrantee contracts, then you keep that in mind. Write the goal down as you plan your interaction.
- What has to happen? – When you communicate, there’s a desired result. You want people to buy more printers. You want your employee to take on more responsibility. You want better feedback on project milestones. This is different than the goal. It’s an outcome you want to see happen.
- What needs saying? – A word of caution: most people overpack every opportunity for interaction with too much. Too many words. Too many points made. Our brains can only handle so much information. If you tell the team there are 11 major priorities, they’ll remember one or two at most.
- Who is the recipient of this information? – The key to self expression is here. Talk in your words but be mindful of the person who needs to hear them. Most importantly, is there anything you can say that will help people know you mean them specifically and not the masses. People need to see themselves in your words. They have to know you’re talking to them.
- Mix novelty and familiarity – Did you know that the most popular way to pitch movies in Hollywood is to mix two disparate elements together to explain what makes a film unique? The movie Alien was pitched by Ridley Scott as “Jaws in space.” Novelty – something new and unique to our brain – and familiarity – something we feel comfortable with – are the two main ingredients of expressing yourself in a memorable way.
- Read it aloud – If you’re working on an article or a letter to the staff, before you publish or send it, read it aloud. Sometimes, our ideas seem smart when we’re typing them out but they don’t come out great on paper. And a secret hint. Sometimes, if the words aren’t coming, you can pull out your smartphone, open the voice recorder, and talk to yourself a bit. Our spoken word often helps us awaken our written word.
If you’d like to read a book about building a much stronger writing voice, check out this fast and easy read I wrote for you!
Fear is the Enemy
Our brains can be real jerks. The inner critic voice can be so much louder than any other voice in your head, and this comes out in people’s attempts to express themselves. While it’s hard to admit to fears for some people, I can tell you that this is what will wreck your attempts at expression.
I’ll look stupid. We are so worried how others perceive us. Sometimes, this means we pull out “big” words when everyday words will do. Stop it. The only time ever to use a really big word is when the audience are all operating at a high intellectual level (like scientists and surgeons and stuff). The rest of the time, say it the way you’d explain it to your aunt.
I’ll appear weak. If there’s anything we hate more than looking stupid, it’s worrying that someone will think you’re weak or vulnerable. The thing is, couched well, your vulnerabilities when paired with your confidence and your clarity of expression can be a very strong appeal to the people you’re trying to reach. The reason Superman movies aren’t all that fun is that we can’t relate to someone who’s invulnerable. The flaws are as important as the strengths.
What if I’m wrong? Okay, this is technically a variation of the “stupid” fear. Especially when we write something, we worry about being wrong. People are always wrong. It’s okay. We check things over. We get a second set of eyes to review our work sometimes. And then we send it out there. If it’s wrong, we’ll recover from that. A lot more of your life than you realize is built around recovering from stumbles.
And Give More Than You Take
Finally, expression is about giving. People choose to connect with those that make them feel fed and nourished. If your work is very self-absorbed, it means you’re needy and seeking praise, and people – even those who love you dearly – will stop paying attention if they feel you take far more than you ask.
My model in selling business advisory services and executive coaching has been to give away 90% or so of what I know for free, and then only charge when it’s time to go further. Seek to give quality information in your interactions. Be generous with your praise. Give people rewards and value when you express yourself, and that will yield value to you.
If ever you need more on expression, I wrote Find Your Writing Voice that might help. Also, you can connect with me directly, if you want to talk about a workshop or coaching on the process. I’m here to serve!