In life, we sometimes get a little ahead of ourselves in building new relationships. Perhaps it’s our nerves kicking in, or we simply need to see how we are perceived from those who are observing us. I witnessed two young people meeting for the first time as they began getting to know one another. One of them began by kicking into high gear a discussion on self achievement. Oh, if they only knew I thought to myself.
You see I had a business partner who puffed the truth in everything he did. It was very frustrating to me at the time. I could see how detrimental his discussions were to our operation. While I tried to find a good way to tell him, knowing this trait was a flaw in his character; a window of opportunity opened for me to discuss with him how negative his actions were being perceived.
Jimmy Shea, the Olympian, held a position in our organization. He served on a board that was established to help promote our new business. During one of our first meetings my partner began to share his feelings on what he felt we should do. His suggestion was that our product was the best in the market place. Jimmy, with a shocked look on his face said, “Bob are you serious?”
Jimmy and everyone in the room (many influential business people) knew of many other competitive businesses which enjoyed a superior product. Each of these “better-quality” operations were expected to be superior; their services were at much higher price, and oddly in different markets altogether.
What Jimmy shared with Bob is exactly what he needed to hear. “Bob, if you tell a customer you are better than XYZ Company, and they come here to find you aren’t; they are let down. On the other hand, if you set the expectations below what you can deliver; when they arrive they are pleasantly surprised. Which would you rather have? For me, I want to under promise and over deliver.”
Bob didn’t listen to Jimmy, or to me later attempting to help him understand this fatal flaw. He to this day is still puffing the truth in everything he does; this is a lesson that if he had learned sometime in his life he would have saved a lot of heart ache and trouble over the years. Jimmy is exactly right with his observations. In everything we do, we should be aware of the message delivered and make a habit of saying less.
The young man I observed attempting to build a new relationship shared information about himself which was truly remarkable, and perhaps even true. But hearing someone talk about themselves creates an expectation. Even if just a slight portion of what is said is found to be an exaggeration, all stories are then thought to be bloated. In relationships, let others find out about your greatness from external sources.
Life will have many opportunities for us when we need to share a little about ourselves, what we have done, or things we represent. Learn how much greater you will be perceived when your guest understands things are better than you suggest. Building on this foundation will allow you to be taken seriously and gain respect for being at least who you say you are.