I run an organization called The Meekonomics Project. If you’re reading this you probably already know that. What you might not know is how much I have struggled to live out the values that the name of the organization professes.
You see, I can be really arrogant at times and I hate that about myself.
A friend of mine once told me it’s a bit of an occupational hazard. When you are in the advice business it’s hard not to come across as a bit arrogant. People come to you with questions, and you’re supposed to have the answers. But what happens when people decide not to take your advice? It’s hard not to be a bit arrogant about it isn’t it? We tend to write people who disagree with us off as stupid and a waste of our time. But that’s just the height of arrogance.
As I have worked through my tendency to be arrogant here are a few things I’ve learned that help promote humility.
1 – Acknowledge the questions. Say something like “Hey that’s a really good question, thanks for asking.”
2 – Ask clarifying questions. “What do you mean by that, can you give an example?”
3 – Admit what you don’t know. The adage says “You don’t know what you don’t know”, so when faced with a question you’re not completely sure about acknowledge that, say something like, “You know I’m not 100% sure let me get back to you.” Then if you like you can move on to #4.
4 – Avoid absolutes. Phrases like, “What I and others have found”, “In my opinion”, “This has worked in the past”, take the emphasis off yourself and frame the response in a way that makes you look less like a dictator and more like a fellow traveller or learned source who’s just a little bit further down the same road.
Remember, in this day and age information is exceedingly easy to get. When people have questions they can usually find the answers on their own with just a few clicks of a mouse. Any business that is based on advice and expert commentary needs to be aware of that. The value you add is more in how you deliver it than the content you provide. In my opinion a little humility goes a long way to building a lasting, trust based relationship with your clients while arrogance only serves to alienate people and give them reasons to discredit you, especially if your brand has the word meek in it…