[Note from Ryan: While this post isn’t directly about writing much, I think much of what is discussed can be applied to writing. For example, book reviews for other authors and interacting with readers. I enjoyed Stephanie’s article and I think you all will to. Enjoy!]
by Stephanie O’Brien
I recently had an interesting experience on DeviantArt, and it reminded me of an important principle that applies to both your creative career and your life in general.
I was reading one of Zarla’s “Momplates” comics, and I thought about making a comment. I typed something I thought was fitting and funny… and then paused.
I found myself asking, Should I post this? Does it add enough to the conversation, or is it just more internet noise? She already gets a lot of comments on her art.
In the end, I decided to post it, and a few hours later, I got a surprise: another reader had replied to my comment, saying it “made their day”.
This reminded me of an important principle I learned early in my business.
As I explained in my uncredited guest blog post on Success Story, you’re at your most vibrant, magnetic and inspiring when you’re being completely, authentically yourself.
And yet, most of us are NOT encouraged to do that. Even though there are a lot of “be yourself” messages out there, in practice, people often feel pressured to be quiet, be normal, and not make waves.
Don’t annoy people, don’t stand out, don’t risk making mistakes. Don’t do something you could be embarrassed about, even if it’s harmless.
The problem with that strategy is, it’s inauthentic, it drains your energy, and it keeps you from attracting and improving the lives of the people who need your unique personality and style.
Does that mean you should always say what’s on your mind, or do what you feel like doing?
It depends. If there’s something you want to say that you’ve been hesitating to say, something you want to do that you’re afraid might look silly, a creation or bit of wisdom you want to share that you’ve been holding back, or some other part of yourself that you’ve been hesitating to express, here are a few questions you can use to decide whether or not you should share it:
1. Will it hurt anyone?
If what you want to say or do is completely harmless, why not go for it?
Maybe it’ll get ignored. Maybe an oversensitive person will get annoyed.
Or maybe you’ll make someone’s day, inspire someone, or change someone’s life.
2. If it might hurt someone, but it needs to be said, is there a kinder way you can say it?
Sometimes if someone is being unkind, is clearly misinformed, is self-sabotaging, or is otherwise screwing up, they need to have it pointed out to them.
But that doesn’t mean you need to do it harshly, even if a moment of anger may tempt you to do so.
Here’s a quick list of ways to make your spoonful of wisdom easier to swallow:
– Be polite.
– Assume that the other party had good intentions.
– Handle the issue privately, if possible, instead of publicly embarrassing them.
– Be open to hearing their side of the story. They might know something you don’t.
– Target the behavior, not the person. There’s a big difference between saying that something a person is doing is bad, and saying the PERSON is bad.
There may be instances where you have to be blunt and stern, but your feedback is more likely to be heard, received and acted upon if it’s delivered with kindness and maturity rather than anger and insults.
3. Are you sure you’re right?
There are times in most people’s lives when they believe that another person has a false belief, a limiting mindset, or wrong information, but they aren’t 100% sure that their perception is accurate.
Delivering your insights without first confirming that what you’re talking about actually fits the other person’s situation only frustrates and annoys the receiving party, so it’s important to get confirmation first.
Here are a few sample lines you can tweak and use to confirm that you’re on the right track, and to avoid looking like you’re making an assumption about the other person:
“What I’m hearing is, you believe (what you think they believe), or at least, part of you feels that way. Am I understanding you correctly?”
“What I’m hearing is, part of you believes that (the incorrect belief), even if part of you knows it isn’t true. Am I understanding you correctly?”
“What I’m understanding is, you’re doing (habit)/not doing (thing they need to do in order to create change). Is that right?”
4. Will it be embarrassing?
WHO FREAKING CARES?!
I’ve become convinced that the world is full of fascinating people who live most of their lives behind boring masks, because they’re afraid of embarrassing themselves, standing out, annoying someone, or being different.
But that very uniqueness is part of what makes you stand out from the crowd.
And who knows – if you wear that funny outfit you love, sing in public, speak your mind, share your story, or do whatever it is that you were so afraid to do, you might just inspire someone else to take off their mask and be their own wonderful, fascinating self.
Or maybe you’ll just make someone’s day with a funny comment on an art site. That’s good too.
Stephanie O’Brien has been writing novels since she was twelve years old and has published three of them on Amazon’s Kindle. When she isn’t writing novels and running her marketing business, she’s usually creating comics, music videos, and fanfiction. If you’d like to get more writing tips, or to check out her books, art, and videos, you can visit her website. You can also connect with her on Facebook or on Twitter.