Influencers are everywhere. They’re not just the writers, thinkers, and politicians of this world. Anyone who trains, teaches, negotiates, advises or sells is an influencer. In our business – as in our personal – lives our success is to some degree the product of our ability to influence others.
We’re already acutely aware of this, and for most of us, it represents a problem. It’s a problem because we see in ourselves personal weaknesses, and these we define as impediments to our success – things that stop us from achieving, things that hold us back.
We all have something about ourselves that we would like to change. Personal insecurity or social anxiety makes it difficult for us to speak to strangers. Lack of education or experience makes us feel inferior and inadequate. Lack of self-assurance, whether on its own or resulting from the preceding, kills our confidence, and stands between us and the success we want.
This affects us in many ways. At work, socially, and in our personal lives. We don’t measure up to the competition – for this job, that opportunity, or the attractive girl in the corner.
Those things about ourselves that we’d like to change, we internally characterize as “faults.” That’s why we’d like to change them. We see them like this by agreement with ourselves, that they are weaknesses which we cannot control and which diminish us as people.
Self-image is entirely subjective and uniquely critical.
We don’t realise how common this is. It’s a part of the human condition, it’s everywhere, but we tend to recognize it only in ourselves. We see successful people and our response is “I wish I could be like her,” or, “He’s got something I don’t have.” And so, when we set out to influence others – by selling to them, teaching them, negotiating with them – we are confronted, and hampered, by a sense of our weakness, and the belief that it makes us less effective. How do we react? By bluffing. We pretend to be someone and something that we don’t think we are because we’ve already agreed with ourselves that we’re not.
For all this is a natural approach, it’s the wrong approach. It’s the wrong approach because it fails to understand the most fundamental component of influence-based success. Trust.
Question: What, more than anything, do we look for in those we allow to influence us? Answer: Authenticity. In the round. We relate to people we like, and that we see as genuine, even if flawed. We look at their story as a whole. We don’t choose our influencers for their unique brilliance. We choose them for their unique, individual, perspective.
Everyone has one of those. Everyone’s story is unique. It’s the real you – the product of who we are as much as of where we’ve been and what we’ve done. And none of us is perfect. We’re all different, but where we’re the same is we’re all a combination of strengths and weaknesses. Our particular combination, married to our experiences, is what makes each of us unique. The reality is that your USP is the sum of your whole story, and those “weaknesses” are an essential component of the greatest asset you have.
How you are is who you are. If you’re not comfortable with the real you, then you’ve got a problem. Because when you try to present a different, modified persona you sacrifice your authenticity. That’s not hard to spot and, chances are, you don’t succeed.
You can’t be likeable if you don’t like yourself.
Accept yourself as you are. It’s why the people who already like you, like you. Be entirely yourself and so will others. That matters because to trust you, people have to like you. You can’t be a likeable person unless you like yourself. And once you get comfortable with yourself and accept that this is what and who you are, the things you weren’t happy about will assume a whole new definition. Nobody does everything well; imperfection is not simply normal it’s universal and, viewed from that perspective, your subconscious stops telling you that you’re not capable. And once you’ve embraced the real you there’s no pressure to be something different.
Here’s an example: Novice salesmen tend to be less successful than their more experienced colleagues. This doesn’t just apply to salesmen of course, but salesmen are what I know. They attribute this lack of success to their lack not of experience, but technique. Almost every new salesman I ever trained believed that there is a secret, magic trick to selling and that learning it was the key to success- not knowing it was what was holding them back. In that category, I include my younger self, incidentally. That vital secret proved elusive and in the end, I did what I should have been doing all along. I told my customers: “I’m new to this, and I’m not an expert salesman. But I know the product. So I’ll explain it to you, I’ll answer any questions you may have, and I’ll give you a price.” A strange and wonderful thing happened. In being open, honest and transparent, I took all the pressure off myself. I had no need, or reason, to pretend I was someone different. And I took all the pressure off the customers who, as is the case, felt intimidated by slick salesmen. The more I did this, the more I sold. And the more experience I developed, the more I realized that there is, in fact, no magic secret. People are influenced by people – real people. And we already are, each of us, a real person.