[Say What You Do Better] Lesson Two: Say the Thing That Scares You

When you realize that you can’t do it wrong (our previous lesson), something else becomes possible.

Saying the thing that scares you.

For a long time, I‘ve said to my clients, “the thing you are afraid to talk about is the thing your audience most wants to hear”.

So much business communication is boring, boring, boring because everyone is staying in the lane of what they are sure is safe and appropriate to say. “I can help you build a six-figure business. I can help you pay less taxes. I can help you have more energy.” We color between the lines.

And those promises are fine. Maybe that is what you deliver.

But if all you ever say about what it takes to have those things is what’s known and expected and agreed on – you need to develop a six-figure mindset, you need expert tax help, you need to eat better – you’re not adding anything new to someone’s world.

And so as consumers, we are bored and annoyed by the marketing messages that come our way. We resent they take up time and space and energy because they aren’t saying anything that we don’t already know.

And as a business owner, you struggle to write things that you love. That you can’t wait to share. Because you are uninspired by what you are writing.

Imagine you are standing somewhere.

And about three feet around you is a plexiglass circle. And in that circle is white, fluffy pillow stuffing. Soft and easy. This is the territory of same old same old communication and safe expression. Things you can write and speak that won’t rock the boat. That won’t shock or surprise or inform or delight. This is where we are careful. We choose our words cautiously. We soften and moderate the ideas we want to express so no one experiences any discomfort around them*. We go for agreement and approval with our audience instead touching, moving, shaking, piercing them.

Now imagine you step four feet out.

This is new territory.

You want to start to write and speak from this place.

Say the thing that scares you. That scares you because:

  • People might not agree with you
  • People might not understand you
  • People might judge you or think you are strange for saying it
  • People might not buy from you if they knew this was at the heart of what you do
  • You tried saying it before and it didn’t go well

This is the thing, or things, that when you say them, you feel visible in a way you haven’t before. Like people are seeing into you, and what makes you tick, in a way they haven’t before.

You feel vulnerable in a way you haven’t before. Because what you care about and what you deeply believe in on display.

Like your unprotected insides are on display and in reach of other humans.

One of the principles we work with in my coaching groups to support creating concrete and meaningful results is “Be on the Almost Always Uncomfortable Edge of Your Expression.” That edge of expression. That place that feels giddy and exhilarating. That feels risky. That feels untested. The place that is one step beyond what feels like solid ground. There is always a new edge to go to.

Let’s say you work with clients in organizations on their leadership. You and I together could come up with safe and easy things to say about leadership. That leaders need to have a clear vision for their organization. That they need to understand their strengths and the strengths of their people. That they need to light a fire in people so they want to perform well.

But can you drop a layer deeper?

If you’ve spent any time in the trenches doing this work, you’ve seen things. You’ve had moments where a light has come on in your client’s eyes and suddenly all of their behavior changes. You’ve heard your client describe how small changes they made rippled out to their team and then snowballed into a new way of operating. You’ve heard stories from your clients of the awkward, imperfect conversations they had, or the risky decisions they made, which may or may not have panned out. You’ve been close up and heard the fear in their voices, the pain of disappointment, the discomfort of indecision, and then the way forward.

That’s the stuff you want to get to. The material you want to talk about.

It may not be the shiny-happy-what’s-in-it-for-them benefits that all your business and marketing trainings told you you should be writing and speaking about. That you think your audience needs to hear so they buy from you.

What did your client get in their bones in that lightbulb moment?

What was the seemingly small change they made that had a huge impact?

Where did their courage rise up in those moments of challenge and help them make a better choice?

Talk about that.

Write about that.

Even if it’s messy. Even if you say it imperfectly.

Think that leaders need to wrestle with the toxic impact of their own egos before they can grow in any meaningful way? Write about that.

Believe that leaders need to let go of being good, corporate robots and deepen their connection to their own humanity so they can create truer bonds with their people? Say that.

See a place for spiritual awareness in leaders’ decision-making so more good is done through them and their organizations? Stand up and share.

Just this week, I came across an article that said there is research that shows that we are more likeable when we let people see that we make mistakes. (Something I also teach in my coaching groups.)

I think a similar thing is true with courage. People respond with more attention and more interest when they see us demonstrate courage. When we are willing to go beneath the surface and bring forward something they hadn’t seen or didn’t know. When they see us speaking something uncomfortable but true.

It’s in the moments you do this that someone in your audience will point their finger at you and say, “YOU. I want to work with YOU.” That we seal someone’s commitment to experience what we offer.

How do you know if you are doing this?

You’ll feel it in your body. There will be a life, an aliveness, and excitement about what you have to share. You’ll feel a whole-hearted “yes” in your veins regardless of whether anyone likes your post or replies to your email.

That’s where you want to get.

So your assignment. Say the thing that scares you.

  1. Remember, you can’t do it wrong (Lesson One). If you are showing up, and trying something new, you are doing it right.
  2. Please, please, please, don’t let this invitation to say the thing that scares you turn in to not writing and speaking because you think what you have to share is too obvious, or someone else said it before, or it’s not exciting enough. Let’s not do that. It’s always better to say SOMETHING, than to say nothing. (After all, what is safer than saying nothing?)
  3. Plan on working on this for 20-30 minutes if you can. If that’s too much, do 10 minutes.
  4. Set a timer for 2-8 minutes at a time depending on what works best for you. Write, letting your hand move across the page without much editing, using one or more of the following prompts. Let yourself play and explore, this doesn’t have to be too serious:
    1. Magic wand. If you weren’t afraid, if you had no concerns at all about what anyone would think or say, what would you say about your work, your people, what you know?
    2. Holding back. Is there some place you KNOW you are holding back? Where you aren’t saying what you want to say because you have a story in your head about what would happen?
    3. What have your last two or three client experiences taught you REALLY matters?
    4. Post something publicly that represents you taking more risk. It can be a single sentence or a longer piece. You can play with the prompt, “What I’ve seen is . . . “
    5. Share here what you you learned, what you realized by taking on this assignment (a snippet or an insight, not your full writing sample)

*I want to be perfectly clear. I am not giving you the green light to express views or positions that are oppressive. Ideas that diminish and disrespect any group of humans. That deny them dignity and humanity and the right of self-determination. Racist, misogynistic, classist, ableist. Bigoted against folks whose sexuality or gender-identification or expression is different than yours. Prejudiced against those who have different faith or spirituality than you do, or who don’t have a faith or spirituality at all. Expression of these views is NOT what we are talking about here. Those are not welcome here, and they are going to rightfully get you booted out of many places.

Generally, if your energy and expression are directed as much or more towards making a group of people smaller, less powerful, and less free, rather than towards lifting up, encouraging, and expanding the people you want to support, there is deeper personal work you need to do before stepping out in the world.

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