Sharing The “Darker Side” of Entrepreneurship: A Simple Technique for Sharing Struggles

Entrepreneurs often feel pressured to put on an everything-is-awesome persona.  When asked, How’s business? entrepreneurs commonly respond with, “Everything is awesome!” 

Business owners have a compulsion to put a positive spin on everything. After all, they are their own PR reps. 

Of course, nothing can be awesome all the time. The un-aweomse just goes unshared. An un-sharing leads to shame, solitude, and burnout. Especially for entrepreneurs. 

The first half of my entrepreneurial career was filled with “everything is awesome” conversations. I’d leave those conversations wondering, Did they notice that I’m faking the awesome? Could they tell that I’m scared and struggling in a few areas? 

Sure, a little “fake it until you make it” is necessary in any venture. But by keeping the struggles silent, entrepreneurs miss out on growth opportunities (both personally and professionally). 

During my everything-is-awesome years, I missed out on so much business because I struggled longer than I needed to. During that time, I didn’t have conversations about my struggles. So I missed out on learning from other’s experiences, perspectives, and creativity. Solutions were simpler than I expected. Colleagues were more kind and understanding than I was giving them credit for. 

I’ve seen many entrepreneurs close their businesses because of how “awesome” everything was. They never shared what was really going on, so they never gave themselves a change to learn. So, I consider myself lucky to have eventually learned the importance (and skill) of sharing struggles.  

When did I become brave enough to share the darker truths of my business? When friends and mentors shared their own struggles with me. When they shared their stories, I realized I wasn’t alone in any of my business struggles. People I care for and respect have all experienced the same problems, the same worries, and the same challenges.

Sharing entrepreneurial struggles is an opportunity for problem solving, creativity, and freedom.  

Everything isn’t always awesome, and it’s ok to talk about it. 

The Influential Power of Sharing

When I interviewed CIA field operatives, I was surprised by the recurring theme of sharing. For a spy to obtain information, they must sometimes divulge a little information first. This is a conversational technique known as quid pro quo

Intelligence Agencies meticulously decide which information – half-truths or pure fabrications – can be shared. It’s a delicate process. Share the wrong information and you blow someone’s cover. Share too much information and you accidentally reveal something intended to stay secret.

Spies build conversational strategies with quid pro quo because sharing is psychologically powerful. Sharing makes others feel comfortable to share. 

I’m using the Intelligence community’s perspective on sharing as an example only to emphasize how valuable sharing can be. If State secrets can be discovered through intentional sharing, what could you discover using the same technique?!

Below you’ll find a simple formula for using quid pro quo to help you find your comfort level in sharing your own entrepreneurial struggles. 

But first, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the pains behind entrepreneurial solitude and why it’s now easier to share entrepreneurial struggles.  

Quid Pro Quo for Good

Quid pro quo is absolutely one of those “dark arts” techniques that needs to be brought into the light! 

If you get squirmy about how the CIA uses quid pro quo to get information, that’s understandable. Their jobs are defined by blurred moral lines. Every influential techniques can be used manipulatively. But that doesn’t negate the fact that influential techniques can (and should) be used genuinely, and effectively.  

Did you realize you use the quid pro quo technique? When you share things about yourself and someone responds with, “Oh my goodness! I can relate!” followed by sharing their own experience, that’s quid pro quo. It’s as simple as that. 

I encourage you to now use quid pro quo intentionally. 

Here’s the kicker. Everyone is waiting for everyone else to share first! Quid pro quo only works for those who are brave enough to share first.   

A Quid Pro Quo Formula for Sharing Entrepreneurial Struggles

Using quid pro quo doesn’t mean you have to share everything. In fact, that’s not advised. 

Quid pro quo is just a sentence or two. For example:

“I’m thankful our clients are happy with our services, and, to be honest, I’m having a tough time balancing work and time with my family.”

Here are the steps for creating your quid pro quo statements for sharing your struggles: 

STEP 1:

Start with gratitude

Briefly share what’s going well.  

“I’m thankful our clients are happy with our services, and, to be honest, I’m having a tough time balancing work and time with my family.”

STEP 2:

Use “and” instead of “but”

You can be thankful for what is good AND have struggles. “And” acknowledges both truths. “But” takes away from gratitude.

“I’m thankful our clients are happy with our services, and, to be honest, I’m having a tough time balancing work and time with my family.”

STEP 3:

Use a transition phrase that indicates vulnerability

This will help the listener soften to what you have to say and see your vulnerability for what it is – brave. 

A few transition options are:

  • “…to be honest…”
  • “…and this is a little tough to share…”
  • “…being fully transparent…”

“I’m thankful our clients are happy with our services, and, to be honest, I’m having a tough time balancing work and time with my family.”

STEP 4:

Briefly share your struggle

The goal of quid pro quo is fostering conversation. No need to jump into details right away. Give the other person a chance to respond. See their reaction.

“I’m thankful our clients are happy with our services, and, to be honest, I’m having a tough time balancing work and time with my family.

After you’ve shared using your quid pro quo statement, the next step is up to them. They might give a polite reply, but not really engage. Or, maybe, just maybe, they’ll breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Oh my goodness! I can totally relate!” Then, you both can find catharsis and solutions. 

Sharing struggles isn’t shameful. When done with intention, sharing struggles can be influential. 

Sharí Alexander - Influence Speaker & Coach - Headshot

Happy Influencing!

Sharí Alexander
Influence Speaker & Coach

 P.S. Here are a few other ways I can help you increase your influence, whenever you’re ready.

1. I’m putting out a lot of great tips on LinkedIn and Instagram. Follow me for influential insights that help you in business and life!

2. Grab a FREE copy of my Mindreader Blueprint. It’s the step by step guide for finding your influential message. Use this workbook to make your next pitch or presentation more persuasive!

3. Booking speakers for virtual events or post-COVID live events? Your audience will LOVE learning how to be more persuasive in business and in life. Looking for a keynote speaker who jam-packs a speech with practical, how-to content that actually helps professionals be better leaders? You can find out more, here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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