How Entrepreneurs Can Stop Struggling in Solitude

Entrepreneurs have historically fallen into the trap of an “Everything is Awesome” persona.  When asked, How’s business?, an entrepreneur’s response is essentially, “Everything is awesome!” 

Business owners are their own Public Relations reps. So, there’s a compulsion to put a positive spin on everything. No one wants themselves or their business to be labeled as a loser. And so…. “Everything is awesome!”

Of course, nothing is awesome all the time. It’s just that the un-aweomse goes unshared. And the unshared un-awesome results in shame, solitude, and burnout.

For the first half of my entrepreneurial career, I had my own “everything is awesome” persona. I’d leave conversations wondering, Did they notice that I’m faking the awesome? Could they tell that I’m not doing as great as I’d like them to believe? 

Sure, there’s an element of “fake it until you make it” that’s necessary in any venture. But too much faking it can lead to the failure one fears. 

I missed out on so much business (and personal) growth because everything was so damn awesome. I struggled longer than I needed to. Solutions were simpler than I expected. And colleagues were more kind and understanding than I gave them credit for. 

And I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve seen many entrepreneurs close their businesses because of how “awesome” everything was. They never shared what was really going on. 

How did I become brave enough to share the darker truths of my business? When friends and mentors shared their own struggles with me. Those moments were gifts. They helped me realize I wasn’t alone. The people I look up to have been through the same problems, the same worries, the same challenges. 

And what happens when we do share with one another? Freedom. Creativity. Problem solving.  

Entrepreneurs can share the downs with the ups, and do so in an empowering way that encourages others to do the same. Everything isn’t always awesome and it’s ok to talk about it. 

What Influence Professionals Know About Sharing

When I interviewed CIA field operatives, I was surprised by the recurring theme of sharing. Spies know that getting information sometimes requires divulging information first. The conversational technique is called quid pro quo

Spies meticulously choose what information – half-truths or pure fabrications – can be shared. It’s a delicate process. Share the wrong information and your cover is blown. Share too much information and you unwittingly reveal something meant to be kept secret.

Spies build entire strategies around quid pro quo because sharing is psychologically powerful. When you share something about yourself, it makes others feel comfortable to share their equivalent – and often, more. 

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

Below, I give you a formula for how you can use quid pro quo to start sharing with your colleagues, friends, and fellow entrepreneurs.

First, let’s talk about what happens when we don’t share, and why it’s safer than ever before to finally share your struggles.  

Entrepreneurial Solitude 

Owning a business is especially lonely when “everything is awesome.”

The unshared is a breeding ground for shame. And shame leads to solitude. When a business owner feels stuck, shameful, and alone, the business is in real trouble. Entrepreneurs can’t be creative and see possibilities when their chronically afraid and hiding it.   

Ego keeps entrepreneurs from truly connecting with one another. We harm ourselves and our businesses by not being real with those who can best understand our struggles – our fellow entrepreneurs. “Everything is awesome” closes you off from connection and learning.  

Sharing struggles leads to sharing solutions. If you’re not honest about your problems, you won’t find your solutions. 

A Welcomed Shift Around Sharing

2020. Struggle is finally acknowledged as normal! 

If your business took a hit, if you’re losing your mind balancing work and family, if you’re concerned about the future of your company, if you have to retool your business model …. All of a sudden it’s finally safe to share! 

The taboo of struggle has been lifted. 

Entrepreneurs in every industry are more free to share what has always been there – the struggles of business ownership. 

Quid Pro Quo for Good

I love influential techniques used in clandestine circles – like the CIA – and teaching those techniques to business professionals. That’s how I got my moniker, bringing the ‘dark arts’ of influence into the light

Quid pro quo is absolutely a technique 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. There’s no doubt that influential techniques can be used manipulatively. But that doesn’t negate the fact that influential techniques can and should be used genuinely.  

Do you realize you’ve already used the quid pro quo technique? When you share something about yourself and someone responded with, “Oh my goodness! I can relate!” and then the two of you go back and forth expanding on your experiences… that’s quid pro quo.

I encourage you to now use quid pro quo, intentionally. 

Everyone is just waiting for everyone else to share first! Quid pro quo only works if you’re brave enough to stop waiting. When you break your silence, you create space for others to break theirs.  

Your Quid Pro Quo Formula for Sharing Struggles

Using quid pro quo doesn’t mean sharing everything straight away. In fact, that’s not advised. 

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

“I’m so thankful our clients are happy with our services, and, to be honest, I’m having a tough time balancing work 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 is going well.  

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 the gratitude you just shared.

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…”

STEP 4:

Briefly share your struggle

The goal of quid pro quo is to foster a conversation, so don’t jump into the details right away. Give the person your talking to a chance to respond. See what their reaction is. After you’ve shared using your quid pro quo statement, the next step is up to them. 

They might a give 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!” And together, you can find catharsis and solutions. 

We can share our struggles for ourselves, and for each other. 

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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