It seems, all of a sudden, we live in a world of tightrope walkers, tiptoeing high above our lives. We glaze over all that is difficult, passively stroll by conflict, evade intimacy, and avoid confrontation at all costs. We live and act based on our perceptions of other people’s realities – and not on reality itself.
Did I just blow your mind a little? Let me back up.
I’m not saying that there aren’t those who have the ability to comfortably communicate thoughts and feelings. I am though, saying that people today – perhaps to the fault of modern technology and subsequently, the evolution of society as it stands- are spread more thinly across numerous channels than they once were. Certainly I mean in social media and text land, but more importantly, I mean in person. If you’re forced to maintain relationships via text, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email, over the phone, AND in person, certainly the nature of those relationships will change by the medium. I accept that. The difference though, is that arguably, the only real one… is the one that takes place at the end of the day – in person. If we’re so accustomed to communicating digitally, where you have the time and bandwidth to strategically craft who you are and how you want to wish to be perceived… what happens when you’re face to face with someone and have to go deeper?
The simple answer, so far as generalizations are concerned, is that people don’t.
People aren’t straight with each other- and we’re all guilty of it. They read too far into text drag times, unreturned phone calls, flakey bailouts, and eye contact aversions to create their own version of reality… one that is simply a product of their perception of other people’s realities, and not on reality itself. We rarely communicate things that matter or that are true with people we don’t already know well and when we do, at least for me, it’s very memorable.
Our social lives are a game – one that we play daily and aspire to win, but what does winning really look like? We plot and strategize our way through an endless list of portals to what? To…. develop meaningful relationships with other people? Correct me if I’m wrong, but that is the end goal, isn’t it?
I realize this is a lofty topic to discuss – frankly it’s one I have a hard time wrapping my mind around – but it all goes back to a point my Mom drilled into me growing up. She always said, “Honesty is the best policy”. She and I recently had another conversation about integrity and I think it’s relevant here. Integrity says everything about you. Do you do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it? Are you the same person you appear to be? Will you be there when I need you…or only when you need something from me? At its core, integrity is who you are; it’s your brand.
<insert professional marketing metaphor here>
I build brands for a living. I tell stories. I strive to breathe life into the imaginary person that sits behind a brand’s identity. If I’m not consistent across all channels, honest, transparent, responsive, push the envelope… you get the idea, the success of my brand is doomed to spiral into a whirlpool of archaic complacency, only to arrive dead as a doornail at the status quo. Harsh yes, but in the case of brand building and marketing in modern business, it’s true.
The same goes for you.
In marketing, brands are perceived, praised and ripped to shreds based on how, where and how fast they communicate. The same is true in our lives. Your integrity… your brand, is all you have- and it’s on the chopping block every second of every day. The way you communicate should be consistent no matter the outlet. Like brand guidelines are to a brand, make sure you stay true to who you are in everything you do. How -and if- you respond to a text, the way you handle an uncomfortable situation, your punctuality… all these things play into who you are in the eyes of well – everyone. There will always be the unknown ‘y’ (#mathreference) you can’t predict. You can’t control the reality other people create based on their perception of you and what you do, but it’s important to be aware that that process is indeed happening – whether you like it or not.
What are the takeaways from this lofty social commentary, you ask? Do what brands do: Be honest. Be consistent. Be bold. Be direct. Take chances and shatter complacency. It’s easy to hide behind a barrage of communication channels and not deal directly with your life. If our ultimate goal though, as it always has been, is to live a life of integrity we can be proud of and to create deep, meaningful relationships with people through our lives… how can we not accept and push past these roadblocks to the life of awesomeness we all deserve? The greater the risk, the greater the reward, so skydive face first out of that metaphorical plane and plunge deep into your life – for your life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
Cost benefit analysis says yes – and so should you.