Ben Zoldan in Stories | August 30, 2016 | No Comments

Permission To Be Human

I was with a friend/mentor, brainstorming, talking about the Sales profession in general, what’s holding us back, and how we can continue to evolve and challenge our own thinking.

When we started talking about Storyleaders, Barry quieted me, and said, “At the core, its really about two things: vulnerability and emotion.”

He then questioned, “Isn’t it sad that we have to actually teach this stuff?”
I know a lot of people struggle with vulnerability and emotions, especially when meeting the demands of our every day lives. I did. I do.

And we ask ourselves, “How much vulnerability is too much? “What’s not enough?” “What’s appropriate in business?” “Can I be emotional in the workplace?” “How will this help me be a better salesperson/a better leader?”

Earlier this week, I was having what felt like a really difficult day, frustrated, and pissed off. I felt nothing was going my way, a bit of “why me?” I stumbled on the movie, Gleason; a documentary about Steve and Michele Gleason.

This is vulnerability in its rawest, most real, most emotional form. It’s a story about trauma, loss, love, courage, extreme vulnerability and the human spirit:

Fortuitously, I found Gleason on this feeling sorry for myself, nothing-going-my-way day. It completely stopped in my tracks. Within two minutes, I was crying. It devastated me, lifted me, ignited me and changed my perspective in every way possible. I cried, and cried some more, laughed at times, and was so extraordinarily moved.

Quickly, my feeling of anger and frustration gave way to gratefulness and appreciation. It didn’t take someone telling me to stop feeling the way I was feeling, nor did it take any pressure or convincing. And there certainly wasn’t any form of manipulation or persuasion.

Something else reached into me, as it will you, at a much deeper level.
The courage that the Gleasons embody is indescribable. They experience the most extreme vulnerability. You will feel vulnerable when watching it. It’s not comfortable. But this is life; life is vulnerable and we’re supposed to share and experience this stuff together.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our own struggles with vulnerability. When I bring Vulnerability up in my workshops, it often stirs up a hornets nest, and the controversy begins with those questions: how much vulnerability is too much, or what’s not enough? People are cautious.

But those questions totally miss the mark. If you ever find yourself ever asking those questions, its a pretty good indicator that you’re not being vulnerable, not being yourself, not living the way you can be living.

Vulnerability is who we are. That’s what makes us human. We’re supposed to share our vulnerable selves, in order to connect with each other.

This is so counter to the profession I come from, and yet, the age old battle has always been the general dislike people have towards sales profession.
In Dan Pink’s latest book, ‘To Sell Is Human’, he starts by showing a word cloud that bears the results of asking thousands of people to describe the word Sales.

And here’s the thing; there’s no shortage of sales training. Or sales books. For decades, experts have been telling us how to do it.

We’ve all been through variations of the same themed trainings on influence and persuasion, guiding people towards a close. But its become robotic, armored, controlling, disingenuous, and in a lot of cases, downright manipulative.

The Antidote

Some might put Barry’s emphasis on Vulnerability and Emotions in the “soft” category. I often hear these labelled as “soft skills”. I get it – it’s hard to quantify, and difficult to measure.

But Vulnerability; the courage to authentically share who we are, and Emotions, the state of feeling something, are not “soft” and shouldn’t be relegated to the sideline. These are hard wired into who we are. Our brains are social organs, and our emotions are hard wired, neuro-processes that ensure our collective survival as a species.

We are hard wired to feel what other people feel. We are hard wired to empathize. Our lives are inherently vulnerable. We’ve underestimated, underemphasized and misunderstood vulnerability and emotions in the culture of selling.

When we put a greater emphasis on these things, we will change how we engage with one another and change the experience for everyone involved. The soft ain’t so soft.

And as I think back to what Barry was really saying to me, I’m wondering if he was saying we have permission to be human.


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