At the February PPRS meeting, where we heard a terrific program from speakers Roger Baumgarten, Ed Coffey and Rachel Jarabeck, I challenged each table to come up with at least one positive uplift during their dinner conversation. This isn’t unusual; in fact, for years PPRS leaders have been encouraging members and guests to celebrate their colleagues and fellow communicators for their professional, volunteer or personal accomplishments through positive uplifts. My February column was devoted to it because I love this tradition so much.
However, my challenge last month was just a little bit different. I also encouraged members and guests to consider uplifting themselves.
I can feel you cringing through the screen. Some people consider this to be bragging. Others may think it’s in poor taste to boast about the things we do well. I think of this differently. I think that it’s about time we let people in our professional groups, circle of friends and, perhaps most importantly, work colleagues know that we are amazing at what we do. In fact, I think it’s critical to the future of our profession for everyone to recognize how essential we are.
Public relations and communications professionals are great a promoting our organization, product or industry. Most of us could talk for hours about how our business fills a critical gap or meets a need. And, please don’t mistake me, that’s part of your job and you should be able to do it.
However, for me personally, I find I’m less equipped – or at least less willing – to talk about how my contributions have strengthened the company to which I devote my time and energy. I am notorious for underselling my professional and volunteer achievements. I think many of us are, and I want that to stop.
As I challenged attendees of the February meeting, this coming month, I want each one of you who is reading this message to uplift yourselves. “Gasp, no!” you may say, but we don’t become better sailors by keeping our ships safe in the harbor.
You pick the audience – colleagues, family, friends; what is important is that you hear yourself say you’ve made a difference.
For those like myself who couldn’t imagine interjecting self-praise into a casual conversation at the office, here’s a few jumping off points I refined for your consideration from, of all places, Wikihow:
- Build Your Confidence Beforehand by Writing Down Your Positive Attributes
With social media at our fingertips 24/seven, it is easy to fall into a pattern of comparing ourselves to others, often leaving us feeling lacking. Human nature dictates we’re also more likely to praise others than ourselves. (Have you heard some of the things you say to yourself? If your friends said that, you’d be seeking a new crew!)
Adopt an outside perspective and list the things you’ve accomplished and learned. Keep this tucked away somewhere with letters or emails you’ve received that made you feel recognized of appreciated. Review this list when you’re feeling low and add to it as-necessary.
- Discuss Achievements in a Team-Centered Way
Sharing credit for your accomplishments minimizes the perception of arrogance. For example, use “we” instead of “I” when talking about an event or project. People will be more invested in your accomplishments and more willing to help with the next step or future requests.
- Share a Sense of Astonishment
Creating a “wow” effect can highlight the breadth of your achievement and give you a platform to discuss it. If you got a project done before the due date, under budget or you just landed a new client, expressing amazement is a tactful way to run a victory lap.
- Express Appreciation (When Warranted)
This one can be tricky because I don’t want anyone taking credit for your work. (Which, by the way, has 100 percent never happened to a public relations professional. Ever.) When appropriate, reminding a person how they contributed to a goal you achieved also reminds the listener of the great work you’ve done. This can be as simple as thanking your supervisor for the greenlight to execute your (team’s) vision.
- Choose a Target and Tailor Your Tactic to Your Audience
In this profession, most of us have the social aptitude to determine who likes us, who doesn’t and who may still be on the fence. It is likely you won’t move the needle too much with those first two categories, but you could really swing the pendulum with the latter. Choose who you’d like to be aware of your achievement and consider having a trusted wingman/wingwoman with you, if necessary, to get the accolades rolling.
Consider in advance the benefits and drawbacks to each uplift approach with this individual in mind and choose your timing carefully. Catching them while they’re rushing to a meeting won’t be effective for you or convenient for them.
- Practice Makes Perfect
Nervous for your first personal uplift? I am, but I know that I’ll grow by doing this so I’m going to force myself to do it at least once before our March meeting. You can call me on it if you want and I’ll tell you all about my success or failure – but most of all, what I learned along the way.
Rehearsing with a trusted friend, mentor or family member can help you avoid any braggart-like pitfalls. Ask for honest feedback and refine your phrasing based on their advice. I recommend a face-to-face dress rehearsal, since up to 90 percent of communication is non-verbal. Not making eye contact, for example, is something that couldn’t be critiqued over the phone.
This being a fairly long column, I want to uplift YOU if you made it this far. Thanks for reading.
More than that, to hammer home this message: I want us to own our accomplishments. We should be wearing them like the badges of honor that they are! So, in the next month, find one thing you’re proud of and tell one person about it.
In closing, I leave you with this:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain