Almost every day, I discuss an upcoming interview with a client. Often the job seeker is concerned they don’t have the skills or experience the employer is looking for and because of this concern, they lead with a negative in their answers. When asked if they have Lotus Notes experience, the candidate might say, “No I don’t.” It really doesn’t matter what they say afterwards because the interviewer has heard “no” and has probably written them off. A better response is, “I have extensive Excel experience which is very close to the Lotus Notes program.” When candidates lead with the no, “I don’t have X” or “it has been a long time since I used Y” employers hear no and move on. What I coach them to do is lead with the “yes.” I help them find the positive truthful statement they can start with to make the “no” a little less impactful.
If you listen to politicians, they are well skilled at this. If the politician doesn’t have a positive response to a question, they are usually very adept at deflecting a question. They will answer with what they want to say or an adjacent positive, before (if ever) addressing the initial question. Over the years, I have become pretty good at coaching others how to lead with the positive because I spent years doing marketing copy. If consumers want what is not the strength of the product, I can spin the marketing copy to promote and focus on what the product can do. I think the first time I learned to deflect and focus on the positive was in the first and only musical I was in. I was supposed to be behind the scenes at a summer stock theatre, but they needed more people in the cast. Choreographed dancing is not my thing. What I learned was to have a huge smile, so the audience was drawn to my face and not my feet.
What I notice with many job-seeking and other clients, is a tendency to put themselves down. They are focused on the negative; focused on what they don’t have. Focused on where they are lacking. Because they don’t have self-confidence, because they are concerned about their abilities, they can’t see the good and what they bring to the table. In job interviews, this is detrimental because if we can’t speak about how we can help a company, how will the potential employer know? In life, if we only focus on those things we don’t like about ourselves or think are lacking, where is our joy and our drive?
I used to be the queen of self-depreciating humor. I am not sure if it came about because I did not approve of myself or because I didn’t want the attention, but I would jump at the chance to put myself down. The result is that I never felt good about myself and other people never learned about the amazing things that I can do. Leading with the yes, sharing your gifts is not about putting yourself above someone else. It is about keeping you from degrading yourself and your abilities. It is not prideful boasting. It is simply reporting the truth.
As you go about your day, notice where you degrade yourself. Where do you put yourself down? How do you keep from sharing your light from others? How would your day and experience change if you simply accepted and reported how wonderful you are? Can you lead with the yes?