Stop Caring If They Love You (a Valentine’s Day Kick in the Pants)
It’s human nature to want others to like you, but Suzanne Evans says the need to be
loved just doesn’t serve you well in business. Here, she shares six tips to help you adjust
your hearts-and-roses perspective (at least while you’re at the office).
The way Valentine’s Day pushes love on the American populace, you’d think it was the be-all and end-all of human existence. And it’s true that hearts and flowers and chocolate and lace do have their place. But if you’re trying to transfer some work-appropriate version of those warm-fuzzy feelings to the boardroom (or the conference room, or the cubicle), you won’t get very far. According to Suzanne Evans, your burning need to be loved—or at least liked—may actually be holding you back in business (and in life).
This February 14th, she says, you may want to practice not giving a damn instead of trying so damn hard to be everyone’s valentine.
“Yes, it’s human nature to want to be liked, but when you put too much stock in the popularity factor, you aren’t able to give your clients, your coworkers, and everyone else the honesty they need from you,” says Evans, author of The Way You Do Anything Is the Way You Do Everything: The Why of Why Your Business Isn’t Making More Money (Wiley, February 2014, ISBN: 978-1-118-71426-3, $22.00, www.SuzanneEvans.org).
Have you ever gone along with a client’s bad idea instead of sharing your real opinion? Or held your tongue at a department meeting because you were afraid to outshine your boss in front ofhis boss? Or politely thanked a coworker for her valuable contribution to the report, then stayed late to correct all of her careless errors? If so, points out Evans, you may have retained the other person’s goodwill, but at what cost?
“All you’ve done is dilute the quality of the finished product, make more work for yourself, and limit your opportunities,” she notes. “Oh, and none of these people will love you in the long run, if it comes to light that you didn’t speak up when you could have. The same thing can happen in your personal life when you prioritize being Miss or Mister Congeniality over authenticity. I sure hope the popularity is worth it!”
A glance at Evans’s story will quickly reveal that for her popularity definitely wasn’t worth suppressing her personality, ideas, or dreams. As she transformed herself from a dissatisfied secretary in a dead-end job to the owner of a business-coaching firm, Evans admits to stepping on a lot of toes, offending her fair share of people, and pissing off even more of them. But, she says, the right people appreciated her outspokenness and honesty, allowing her business to surpass the seven-figure mark in just three years.
Here, Evans shares six tips to help you give love the finger and find your own success:
Stop worrying about what happened in high school. Who were you in high school? Were you, to borrow a phrase from The Breakfast Club, a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, or a criminal? Wherever you fit into the pecking order, it’s possible that your feelings about the high school hierarchy are still driving the way you manage relationships—especially if, like many teenagers, you were willing to change aspects of yourself in order to fit into your chosen group.
“I know high school sucked for a lot of people, but here’s a newsflash: It’s over!” says Evans. “Get over it. This is business, and no one is running for prom queen. We are running for profits. Nowadays, the need to be the most popular might get you invited to happy hour, but it won’t get you rich. Time and energy spent in this area force you to make bad decisions because you’re in protection mode instead of progress mode.
“So the next time you find yourself tempted to suck up to the reigning water cooler king or spend work time stroking the ego of your charismatic but clueless client, ask yourself what you expect the payoff to be,” she advises. “If you find that you’re working only toward high-fives in the break room, you need to modify that behavior.”
Be a b*%ch or b@#tard or blowhard or whatever. If you have something to say, then say it, dammit! Yes, even if you think saying it will make you come off as one of those dreaded b-words. Own your point of view, know the areas in which you’re “the expert,” and be willing to piss people off to have your message heard. When it comes to ruffling feathers, in business, the end definitelyjustifies the means.
“I’m not telling you to wander around and be a bully; just stop caring when someone whines because you’ve spoken your mind,” clarifies Evans. “You know the difference between the two. Especially if you’re a naturally passive or conflict-averse person, this may take some practice. In that case, fake it until you make it. When you find yourself tempted to make nice, pretend that you’re Rachel Maddow or a slightly less abrasive version of Donald Trump, if that’ll help you say what you need to! Eventually, you’ll train yourself to stay focused on the wins, not your approval rating.”
Don’t get your love solely from your business. Yes, your job is an important part of your life. But no matter how desperately you want to succeed, never make the mistake of believing that your job is your life. Why? Well, as human beings we crave love and acceptance. If you don’t fill those needs elsewhere (at least partially), you’ll look for them at work—which puts you at risk for prioritizing your feelings over the finished product.
“If you’re doing what you’re doing for attention or popularity or emotional validation, then stop!” says Evans. “That’s a recipe for making yourself miserable, assuming you aren’t already. Your job cannot fill your emptiness. It cannot make you feel whole or special. It can bring you joy, light, or purpose, but it cannot bring you love.
“There’s a reason why some of the most successful entrepreneurs focus on pleasure, leisure, and fun as well as work,” she continues. “You, too, should cultivate the ‘extracurriculars’—relationships, hobbies, interests, etc.—because they allow you to be diverse and interesting. And most pertinent to the topic at hand, they give you a much needed place where you can go to recuperate, decompress, and lick your wounds after you’ve been a hard-ass at work!”
Stop watching others and trying to fit in. In America, keeping up with the Joneses is practically an unofficial national pastime. Admit it: You know exactly what it’s like to look at what other people have—from their cars to their homes to their careers to their spouses and partners—and think, I wish I had that! And you know what comes next, too: You begin to believe that if you could just become more like them, you’d be happier, more fulfilled, and more popular. Fitting in, not getting the job done well, becomes your main priority.
“Stop that right now,” says Evans. “When you watch others, you waste emotional energy. You’ll always feel behind, you’ll always feel a little bit bitter, and you’ll always feel like you’re being shut out of the inner circle—emotions that are in no way productive. When you focus on what you’redoing and set your own goals at your own pace, you’ll become less attuned to what your life is ‘supposed’ to look like and more attuned to what’s actually right for you. And you won’t feel the need to seek others’ approval before going for exactly what you want.
“And here’s a little secret,” she adds. “The Joneses? They have their own problems, and their own set of Joneses to envy. From the inside, their lives aren’t as perfect as you think.”
Don’t dwell on who gets the credit. Zig Ziglar said that the fastest way to get rich is to help others get rich. And he’s right: If you spend your time connecting with, supporting, and promoting other people, your exposure and impact will rise rapidly. But if you’re obsessed with your own reputation, the best opportunities (which almost always involve partnerships, collaborations, and the respect of others) will pass you by.
“Keep asking, ‘Who can I help today?’” suggests Evans. “Don’t worry about who gets the credit. Don’t concentrate on doing things that will make other people like you. Just work on making everyone successful. Then, out of the blue, and often by surprise, you too will be successful. There’s plenty of success to go around, and it is blissful to have the power to pass it out.”
Be more like an animal. Picture this: Bambi is peacefully grazing in the middle of a grassy clearing. Suddenly, he hears a branch crack from inside the trees. It could be a threat—or it could just be a squirrel making too much noise. Bambi has two choices: stay or run. For him, it’s that simple. The one thing he won’t do is linger in the clearing, dithering about which decision is smarter and wondering whether Thumper and Flower will judge him for it.
“Animals react to a situation and move on—they don’t stop to think about whether their decision will make them more or less popular within the herd,” points out Evans. “While we humans are at the top of the food chain for a reason, we could benefit from taking a page or two from Bambi’s playbook. Sometimes, we use our incredibly developed brains to think ourselves out of doing what’s in our best interests! That’s why I encourage you to beef up the faith you have in yourself. Remind yourself that you don’t need others’ approval to do or say what’s smart and what’s right. Listen to your intuition more often, and to the peanut gallery less.”
“Now, keep in mind none of this is a free pass for you to go around being grumpy and dismissive all of the time, pushing people out of your way, and just generally not being a very nice person,” notes Evans. “Not trying to be liked all the time is not the same as being rude or mean. It just means not censoring yourself or squelching the truth in order to not make waves. Actually youare practicing love when you say what you think; it’s just tough love.
“And, trust me, success-oriented people will come to appreciate your real-talk attitude. They’ll respect the fact that you put the work ahead of your own popularity, and that’s how great relationships are formed.”