Sharing something personal often bonds people in a positive way. It can be disarming and soften the most armored individual. And when you talk about yourself, tidbits of personal information are usually given in return.
On the other hand, it can come back to haunt you if the truth is told to the wrong person. Telling your truth is a disciplined art form that requires mastery. Once you get it there is an ease and relaxation in sharing with anyone, anytime, anywhere.
It is a well-known fact that we all tend to gravitate to, buy from and collaborate with people we know and like.
Let's look at how the communication dance begins when you take the leap from mainly fact based discussions to open sharing. If it is easy for you to talk about who you are and what matters to you, then consider yourself lucky. However, always consider that it may be uncomfortable for the person on the other side of the conversation. Here's what you need to do:
It makes sense to prepare those you are talking with by asking permission. It is not so much that anyone would say "No, don't share anything personal with me" as it is more a way of giving space in the relationship when you want to talk more openly.
Think of it this way. Asking permission is respectful. That way someone is more prepared to listen openly rather than judge you.
Asking before talking works everywhere.
The master of "permission marketing" is Seth Godin. He sets a standard for positive marketing. He has great ideas and language for preparing those you hope will buy your wares with a sentence like: "May I tell you something?" "Yes, tell me what you want to sell" rather than jamming it down their throats. "May I tell you something?" gives space to others and also creates shared control of the discussion.
Then the question is why you are sharing and how much is enough. This leads to what is being touted as the cure to pure leadership, being transparent.
Let's dig into the concept of transparency. It is bandied about as the best thing in leadership development and something to be mastered.
I'm not sure how you "master" transparency.
Here is what I have learned from all my years of experimenting with the polar opposites at work of keeping all to myself and letting it all hang out: Be very conscious of what you are sharing and why. Before you open your mouth think about what you want as an outcome. Then give yourself what I have labeled the five second breath before you respond. Wait, and trust your gut.
Here is my concern with telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. When all filters are dropped and you are in a vulnerable place you may just say something you'll regret later.
Here are the 5 techniques to follow:
- If you are going to tell something about yourself that will create an easier and more cooperative alliance at work, you are on the right track.
- If you are going to discuss something that will create a divide between you and others, best to give your conversation a rest and come back another time.
- If you are going to tell someone something to lighten your personal burden, stop and think about getting a coach.
- If you are going to say something that has gossip or innuendo, zip your lips.
- If you are going to be accountable for a slip up, say so and share how you feel. The key here is to do it, in max, three short sentences.
When you are ready to share from your personal experience it is important to remember that it is fine to share from a past experience and tell what you have learned. Better to keep it to yourself or talk with a mentor if the issue is still frustrating, upsetting and unsettled.