One of my clients recently discovered the value of role naming at a conference she recently attended. She was introduced to the head of the unit at the large corporation where she works.
Her immediate reaction was to be deferential, be humble, show respect. She described this as both a cultural consideration (she was not born in the US) as well as a certain awe of his position and tenure.
A Moment of Insight
After she moved away, she remembered our last session when I asked her to think about and intentionally choose a role to play when entering those networking situations.
She realised that Youthful, Respectful Worshipper was not going to do her any favours. Nor was it going to demonstrate her worth to her senior colleague and certainly not raise the profile of the group that she leads.
Additionally she was relating to her senior colleague as an elder which probably did not endear her to him.
Stepping into Role
She went back to speak with him as Confident Practice Leader and had a completely different experience. She altered her physical stance and tone and began sharing ideas as a peer, still with respect.
She also noticed how less busy her mind was and (most of all) how she left that encounter feeling great, that is was more reflective of herself and who she is at her most powerful.
Changing the conversation starts with that internal shift and conscious selection of a role that suits you best. This is not pretending or acting in an inauthentic manner. This is role theory.
Role selection, naming and playing is like thinking about the clothes you wear to an event: which is going to help you feel most comfortable in your own skin? Which will fit you best and as a result, show more of the best of you?
Choosing your role is similar. My client did not feel that Humble Subordinate would distinguish her at a busy conference.
How many others were playing that subordinate role and not succeeding because of it?
How could my client set herself apart and have her voice be heard?
Our deepest fear…
It reminds me of the Marianne Williamson quote, popularised by Nelson Mandela in his inaugural speech:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you…It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Which conversations can and will you change?
For the good of yourself and those around you as Williamson notes above. This liberates you and others.
- Choose a noun like Leader and add one or two descriptive words to it. How does that sound to you? How does it feel? My client chose Confident in the moment and it was the shift that she needed to help her feel she was showing up for herself and her team.
- She put it into action immediately and experienced the impact, not evident to anyone around her, that a simple adjustment could make.
- And she tried it again in another situation until it became more clear that she had more control over situations than she had previously thought.
With a little time and space in advance, she could prepare more effectively for meetings and conversations that really matter.
And so can you.
Try it. And let me know what happens.