Last Sunday night we barbecued a beautiful steak dinner – in the pouring rain – to share with a group of folks we love and cherish. Our gorgeous friend, Norm, who has been a Broadway performer for many years, encouraged our 15-year-old son, Christian, to bring his electric guitar downstairs to play for the group.
Christian has only been playing guitar for about a year, and he’s not altogether comfortable with performing. But with Norm’s encouragement he became emboldened, and we were treated to some super cool riffs and some full-length songs, as Christian covered the Black Keys, Pink Floyd, the Violent Femmes, and AC/DC.
While Christian played, each of us became lost in a different head space, while Norm looked on, fascinated. When Christian was finished, Norm praised him, and then said, “That was unbelievably cool. And the coolest thing about it was how each of you experienced it.”
He went on to explain:
Our friend Dan, an accomplished pianist and die-hard fan of classic rock, was nodding his head and appeared lost in memories of his own teenage jam sessions, long forgotten.
I was rocking out, relating to Christian through our shared love of the bands he covered, excited that we had something so visceral (and so f’ing cool), to share between us… even as his rightful teenage tendencies are to pull away from his mom.
And my husband Jan, ever the proud dad and fierce proponent of individuality, beamed with genuine delight in Christian’s new-found freedom – both literally and figuratively amplified through his badass black Stratocaster — and the untold opportunities the future holds for him.
As Norm shared with us what he witnessed – each of us experiencing, from our own personal perspectives, what Christian brought to our table – I was reminded of how little control we have over how people perceive us. Of how everything we do and say is interpreted through the lens of the viewer, through the filter of the receiver.
So, too, is the case with our brands.
The way our prospects and clients perceive us is much less about us, than it is about their own hopes, dreams, fears and personal stories. Relationships are built through real connections – shared beliefs and experiences – that facilitate trust and genuine affection.
So the next time you seek to influence someone’s perception of you, or of your business, think about Christian and his impromptu concert. And remember that whatever you say will be enhanced, garbled, interpreted, or understood through a filter you simply cannot manipulate.
And know that rather than seek to control, you can simply bring something beautiful to the table, something from the heart that may not be rehearsed or perfect, and your audience will love you for it.
From the heart,