Self-expression in business is often a catalyst for deep connections, but it’s never an easy feat. When you share yourself with your audience and clients, not in a narcissistic but a giving way, you create lasting trust, and a loyal following that is earned the human way and it goes beyond the bottom line.
Connection and humanity are good for business. But why is it still so hard to do?
Being yourself and giving freedom to your ideas remains excruciatingly difficult for a lot of consultants and business founders. Whether it’s sharing their backstory, using certain marketing techniques, or branding their offers, a lot of my clients steer away from self-expression.
And I get it. There is a serious contradiction between the dictated rule of authenticity for your brand and the way human identity naturally is.
The business industry favors consistency, not idiosyncrasies. The moment we let our idiosyncrasies be seen, we will have to reveal that we aren’t consistent at all. In fact, it will become clear how erroneous, risky, and conflicted we truly are.
Because while there is a common thread that holds our identities all the way from childhood through adulthood, we remain multi-layered, evolving, and often contradicting.
Post-war French philosophers like Sartre and Beauvoir popularized the idea of “authenticity”, which comes with the assumption that we all have one “true self”.
And ever since our individualistic society has been trying to reconcile these two conflicting thoughts. On one hand, we want to break away from scripts and labels, on the other, we strive to fit into one single, supposedly unique identity, which is technically a label.
In business, the paradox looks like this: in order to create connection, we need to be vulnerable, imperfect, and transparent, but at the same time we ought to project consistency, reliability, and expertise.
Caught between this ambiguity, many business owners are paralyzed by indecision, and indecision is the enemy of a flourishing business.
So let’s abolish this cognitive dissonance by saying this: you can be both an expert and a human in your business. You can run your brand through a reductive lens and still have a rich identity.
Here are a few tips on how to move forward with a more human, more expressive brand so you can form lasting and meaningful connections with your audience:
- Pick a niche that is close to your mindset
This will make it easier for you to share your ideas and it will make your brand more expressive.
- Know yourself really well
Figure out who you are and who you are not, but not for consistency reasons. Know this so that you can embrace all intersections of your identity and be accepting of different truths than your own.
- Don’t take your identity too seriously
There is nothing worse than a brand or a company taking itself too seriously. You can take your work seriously, but not yourself.
- Lead with a big brave idea
Find that one idea that makes you who you are right now. Put it at the forefront of your business for a few years. This idea doesn’t have to be the totality of you, but should be catchy, memorable and sharable (read more about ideas in my article The Brave Way To Brand Your Business). Its job is to magnetize your niche, but also to give a more complex view of you, stretch the brain and to show the transition from one way of thinking to another.
- Go beyond declaring your big idea. Demonstrate it!
If you have the option of not saying it, but showing it, do the second. For example, don’t say on your website that you are approachable, DO something approachable.
- Use literary inventions like self-irony and humor
Even on your homepage, brand materials and tagline.Do the unthinkable, be who you are with your brand! This will pay off in human capital, and besides, your kids won’t be bored reading you one day!If you need help amplifying the human side of your business, book a call with me here.