Have you ever booked yourself a treat of a hair do, or a massage only to leave afterwards more stressed than ever, feeling you’ve been held hostage while the person looking after you bombarded you with every detail of their chaotic life?
Yup me too. I don’t know about you, but as I am then expected to pay I don’t rush to make another appointment.
I was raised in a generation where ‘washing your dirty linen in public’ was well and truly frowned on, but I am clear that there are things I wish had been talked about and as a result, as a business trainer, my model is to be open and real, to share the sticky bits as well as the successes.
We are also in a very different world now. As a result of social media we all have a voice, we can all tell our story and create greater connection. The other side of that though is, with a blurring of work/life boundaries, our friends and clients are often part of the same mix, seeing all that stuff we share on our personal and business profiles.
I am a big fan of Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability, human connection and authenticity and I strive for that myself, but there is now a tendency to overshare. We’ve all seen those posts, or been part of a conversation that made us cringe as someone crossed the line and this can be a minefield for business owners.
So this post is my thinking on the subject of vulnerability V’s oversharing.
In March I wrote a post for Guardian Small Business about juggling running a business and caring for my mum who became very ill in January (she’s a lot better now by-the-way). I agonised over that post, this was personal, about me and my family. Is it OK to share that with the business world? Will there be a back lash? Will I lose work because of people thinking I’m not up to it?
That is vulnerability. Taking a risk to share a story that may backfire. As it turned out it resonated with a lot of people that I’ve previously had no contact with. I had no idea just many business owners were struggling with the same issue. The article allowed people to connect and notice that this isn’t just their story but a social issue that needs airing.
So why do I object to others sharing their story with me? Actually I love to hear people’s stories, but it’s about timing. In this instance I don’t want to be hit with someone’s life story, without my permission, when I am trying to get myself a bit of much needed R&R. The issue here is appropriateness, about forgetting that when dealing with a client our focus must be on the customer.
Our job as a business owner is to ensure that we have met the needs of the client (if we can) and that they leave happy and wanting to deal with us again. Right?
How can we do that if our focus is only on ourselves and our own issues?
Unfortunately the culture of TOWIE, I’m a celeb, Big Brother etc. means we are being encouraged to share ever thought we have the second it pops into our head. As a result are we at risk of losing an understanding of boundaries and appropriateness?
Despite my opening paragraph I am actually a compassionate person! I am generous with my time and my ears and will give you a good listening too if that helps. And I know that we all have bad days.
So was I mean to leave a physiotherapist who, whilst trying to unknot my back, talked non-stop about how exhausted she was because her baby was teething, or her husband didn’t pull his weight…….? I felt sorry for the woman, I really did and I would have happily had a brew and a chat, but as I was paying £70 an hour it was inappropriate for her to use that time to offload her issues wasn’t it?
Now some people love a bit of juicy gossip, I’m not immune to that myself over a glass of wine with friends. But as a paying customer I would like to be given the option;
tea? coffee? the hour long story of my latest bust up with my boyfriend?
Just water thanks!
We all make mistakes, I have made many by following the crass rules of ‘build rapport’ in traditional sales training. Probably the same training that led to the question “so have you got any pets?” which jarred me out of a relaxed state during a recent massage. That question did not build rapport, it came from her need. She needed to fill the silence, but I was enjoying the silence. But how could she have known that? It’s quite simple really, when we take the focus off us and our needs and tune into the customer, paying good attention to them, we will pick up on what, if anything, they want to talk about. – Or she could have just asked.
As a customer I want the services of someone who has me, not themselves, in their focus for that time slot.
In truth most of us are not getting the support and attention that we need. Facebook is a great place to get that much needed support and reinforcement, but with the blurring of friend/client relationships on there how do we decide what is ok to share and what isn’t?
When I see a business owner regularly posting negativity, as a human I care, but as a customer it repels me and I do not want to use their services or refer people to them. That sounds harsh I know, but in truth most of us want to work with businesses that have a positive outlook. Real, but positive.
So what can we share? I share political posts and fun stuff. My work is politically motivated and my clients know that. I don’t mind people knowing bits of my life, it builds connection. So where are my boundaries? Where am I willing to show myself and where do I draw the line?
It’s all about intention.
When I know clients and prospects are in the audience I ask Does this add benefit? How will it make people feel? Will it add value? Will it create a useful debate?
Here are some examples of where I draw the line and why…..
People know I’m a single mum, I’m ok with that, it was my driver when I started my business. I don’t mind them knowing how old my daughter is, that she’s a singer songwriter and that I’m proud of her. But I don’t share her personal information. That is hers to share not mine.
I’m ok that people know that I’m dyspraxic, I think it’s part of what makes me a good trainer and it raises awareness of difference. But I don’t publicly share every time I have a bad dyspraxic day, because that would just be boring!
I don’t publicly share if I have an argument with my mum/daughter/ neighbour/ client/ colleague… Why? Because I ask myself Why do I want to share that? Sympathy seeking? Shaming? I am very aware that when I see others doing just that I wonder what their agenda is, and it flits through my mind “if they are dissing that client, what are they saying about me?”
However, like everyone else I do need a safe place to vent frustrations, to let off steam and to have a moan, so I set up The Wobble Club as a safe space for members to sound off and get their head back together so they can deal with a situation with more clarity and less public knee jerk. I also usually spend part of my monthly coaching session having a good old rant so that I can clear the irritations and doubts and move forward with positivity.
We do all need that. We all have bad days/weeks/months and need support. If you haven’t got people that you can be vulnerable with why not join or create a closed Facebook group where you can get confidential support. Or get a buddy or a mentor, or join The Growing Club for real peer support.
For me it’s about creating a space where it is safe to explore our vulnerability, so that we can gain clarity, establish boundaries and avoid dumping inappropriately on our clients and prospects.
Over to you. What are your boundaries when it comes to public sharing?