The Pain-2-Power Formula of Being Self-Effacing
So many of us think we should cover up the trying times we have lived through, the challenges we have encountered and the weaknesses or foibles that we possess. We try to wear metaphorical armor that makes us seem invincible—but, in doing so, we risk being perceived as weak. Why, others wonder, if only unconsciously, would someone need to defend against seeming human? We also risk becoming unrelatable when we try to appear perfect because we short-circuit empathy, one of the most powerful forces that connect human beings to one another.
The truth is that being open about your struggles, weaknesses and foibles will recruit others to your side—if you can speak about them and even joke a little about them.
One of my friends is a very successful venture capitalist. He is also open about the fact that he faced attention deficit disorder as a kid and still struggles with it. He is open about the fact that he wet his bed until he was a teenager. He is open about the fact that he got plenty of failing grades. He admits it all freely and that lets people know that he has gotten over it, that he doesn’t think of himself as above anyone else and that they can be honest with him, too—about their strengths and weaknesses and the strengths and weaknesses of their businesses. They can feel at ease with him. They like him—a lot. He has turned his pain into power. Sound familiar?
It’s very wise to stop resisting criticism, too. Listening for the truth in it is part of the equation. And making it all “okay” by “running ahead of it” can take all the sting out of it. Were you told that you don’t listen, you would be headed for a rumble with that person if you were to reply, “I do listen! You don’t communicate your ideas well!” You win over the same person by instead replying, “It’s ten times worse than you even think. Staying on topic has always been impossible for me! I’m going to be working on that for the rest of my days.”
Being self-effacing tells others that you don’t take yourself too seriously, that they can relax around you, that you aren’t above it all and very different from them.
Here’s a good example: My friend was interviewed about his many businesses by the spiritual guru Deepak Chopra. He doesn’t lead with his strengths. He leads with his weaknesses, but turns them into his best foot forward.
Dr. Keith Ablow