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Posted on Sep 24, 2009 in Business 2.0 | 8 comments

Recognizing and embracing true value: How do we address fear?

Recognizing and embracing true value: How do we address fear?

When we talk about values we enjoy when it comes to people, things that often come up are kindness, approachability, warmth, humor, a connection and openness to others and the world around them (often described as ‘lighting up a room’), and a willingness to include those around them in whatever is going on. These are pretty globally attractive characteristics, and those who display them are frequently well-loved and respected wherever they go.

 

Scared

Scared (Photo credit: Melissa Segal)

In business, however, I feel as though there is a disconnect from embracing these same values. Kindness becomes weakness.There is a fear that making your business approachable will somehow lead to being taken advantage of by customers (or worse yet, ignored). People are afraid that being open to others will lead to competitors stealing their ideas, or that somehow the company will be ‘exposed’ as less than it claims, and that will lead to something drastic.

 

These insecurities are quite human and understandable, when we’ve been taught in business (and in our personal lives) that we must portray an image of a secure, independent and successful entity who is not reliant on anyone at all times, or risk losing social status.

What we’re coming to understand is that ‘projecting an image’ is a sure way for people to want to keep their distance. I’m sure everyone reading this knows at least someone who may be a good person underneath, but could commonly be described as someone who ‘tries too hard’ or is ‘always on’. When you think about your reaction to that person, it’s probably something approaching pity, rather than an honest inclination to connect, engage and have a valuable exchange with that person. I’m sure everyone can think of companies (and in fact entire industry trends) that are trapped in fear.

The interesting thing about the world we live in is that those entities are brought into stark relief, as more and more places are embracing a new value of openness, and finding that success follows shortly thereafter. More importantly (I think), the public nature of these interactions allows for people to share in those successes. As follower counts grow for companies that embrace openness like JetBlue, Zappos, Starbucks, they are finding that their goals are being cheered on by the public. People actually want these companies to make money. This would be so far removed from reality even ten years ago as to be absurd.

So, how can we work with companies rooted in fear to open them up to the opportunities? I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I would imagine it begins by showing them the effectiveness of a more human approach, and talking out their fears with them. As with anything in life, the antidote to fear is love and compassion. To those change agents among us, are you approaching your clients this way, to address, alleviate and walk them through their fears? If not, it might be an interesting exercise.

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  • http://cops2point0.com Christa M. Miller

    I run a solo PR shop and believe wholeheartedly in what you are saying, but have had an increasingly difficult time of it… because my own trusted advisers talk to me based on fear! Mainly about the “competition stealing ideas” thing.

    And it’s hard not to believe them. Even though I actively talk with my competition, I still find myself thinking “can’t say that” or “OMG did I just sell the farm?” and I hate that. I really do.

    Deep down I believe that I can rock the market in ways they can’t, and I’m trying to find ways to do that. But being sucked into it makes it so much harder to advise clients not to let themselves get sucked into it, especially when their markets are so much more competitive than mine, and when they are so much more experienced their markets than I am in either mine or theirs.

    • http://www.softlord.com/ Jeremy

      Hey Christa- It may be helpful to remember that nobody owns ideas…they exist in the ethos and sometimes we can pick up on them. Your differentiator isn’t necessarily the ‘great idea’…it’s how you communicate the idea, your own take on it, and how you execute on it. Maybe if you think of fellow PR folks more as ‘colleagues from other companies’ rather than as ‘competition’ you will have a more productive relationship with them and yourself and your ideas.

      Anyone can have a brilliant idea. Not everyone can get it done or communicate it well. And once they’re out there, anyone is free to take them and make them their own. Some will not do as well, some will do better. This is the nature of ideas :)

  • http://cops2point0.com Christa M. Miller

    I run a solo PR shop and believe wholeheartedly in what you are saying, but have had an increasingly difficult time of it… because my own trusted advisers talk to me based on fear! Mainly about the “competition stealing ideas” thing.

    And it’s hard not to believe them. Even though I actively talk with my competition, I still find myself thinking “can’t say that” or “OMG did I just sell the farm?” and I hate that. I really do.

    Deep down I believe that I can rock the market in ways they can’t, and I’m trying to find ways to do that. But being sucked into it makes it so much harder to advise clients not to let themselves get sucked into it, especially when their markets are so much more competitive than mine, and when they are so much more experienced their markets than I am in either mine or theirs.

    • http://www.jeremymeyers.com/ Jeremy Meyers

      Hey Christa- It may be helpful to remember that nobody owns ideas…they exist in the ethos and sometimes we can pick up on them. Your differentiator isn’t necessarily the ‘great idea’…it’s how you communicate the idea, your own take on it, and how you execute on it. Maybe if you think of fellow PR folks more as ‘colleagues from other companies’ rather than as ‘competition’ you will have a more productive relationship with them and yourself and your ideas.

      Anyone can have a brilliant idea. Not everyone can get it done or communicate it well. And once they’re out there, anyone is free to take them and make them their own. Some will not do as well, some will do better. This is the nature of ideas :)

  • http://www.meryl.net/section/blog Meryl Evans

    We, as individuals, bring different experiences with us that make it difficult for us to open up and face certain fears. With a company, you have a different set of fears plus a whole culture — not just one person (typically).

    All we can do show the companies how successful companies have succeeded by being human. If you work for a company, then perhaps you can start by making a suggestion or talking to a manager.

  • http://www.meryl.net/section/blog Meryl Evans

    We, as individuals, bring different experiences with us that make it difficult for us to open up and face certain fears. With a company, you have a different set of fears plus a whole culture — not just one person (typically).

    All we can do show the companies how successful companies have succeeded by being human. If you work for a company, then perhaps you can start by making a suggestion or talking to a manager.

  • http://www.copywriteink.blogspot.com Rich Becker

    Jeremy,

    I know we touched on this via Twitter, but I think the approach needs to be more varied, given that many people will never open up to love and compassion because both are among the long list of fears they tend to hold onto tightly.

    So the approach needs to be more empathetic, helping people shift thinking and doing in ways they are the most comfortable. Ergo, the end result might be the same but the paths to get there are always different.

    All my best,
    Rich

  • http://www.copywriteink.blogspot.com Rich Becker

    Jeremy,

    I know we touched on this via Twitter, but I think the approach needs to be more varied, given that many people will never open up to love and compassion because both are among the long list of fears they tend to hold onto tightly.

    So the approach needs to be more empathetic, helping people shift thinking and doing in ways they are the most comfortable. Ergo, the end result might be the same but the paths to get there are always different.

    All my best,
    Rich