We are all hungry to know what others think of us. These days we are even more in need of feedback, though typically it's a virtual "like" here or a "heart" there, but author Sally Hogshead thinks we need to pay more attention to how the world sees each of us. I run StrawberryFrog, a Mad Ave ad agency and, being the sort of person that loves this kind of feedback, I was compelled to catch up with Sally and ask her about her new book.
Already a New York Times Best Seller, Hogshead's new book "How the World Sees YOU: Discover your highest value through the science of fascination," (Harper Business, July 2014) argues that once you know what makes you valuable to others you're more authentic and confident, and more able to make a positive impression. But it's not only a book, it's a system to understand yourself better.
Q. So, first of all, why is it important how you fascinate the world?
Let's say you think you're funny. As far as you're concerned, a sense of humor is one of your best traits. There's just one problem: Nobody else thinks you're funny.
Well, this is a problem. Humor is a two-sided exchange. It's a feedback loop between you as the joke teller, and your audience. Humor doesn't happen in a vacuum. It's not enough to only consider how you see yourself. You must also consider how the world sees you. If nobody else thinks you're funny... well, you're probably not funny. Humor is in the eye of the beholder, and so are likability, leadership, and a range of other subjective qualities that are rooted in the perception of others.
To communicate effectively, you need to know how the world sees you.
In any distracted or competitive situation, you must compete for attention. Every time you write an email, or leave a voicemail, or make a speech, you compete with a thousand distractions. If you don't know how you add value, you might not be communicating as effectively as you could.
Once you know how the world sees you, you can focus on what others value in you. You can stand out and be remembered. The greatest value you can add is to become more of yourself.
Q. Why should we care about understanding our highest value?
Every time you communicate, you are either adding value, or taking up space.
Before you reach out to communicate, think to yourself... what exactly is your goal in this interaction? Will your listener leave feeling more informed, inspired, equipped to succeed, or even a little entertained?
This is when you are adding value.
Or, will your listener feel intruded upon, without anything to show for their investment of attention?
This is when you're just taking up space.
Don't ask for attention until you are ready to give value first. Asking for someone's attention comes with an obligation to deliver. You are most likely to add value when you communicate using your top two personality advantages.
When your communication adds value, people seek more communication with you. They return to you for future interactions, and every time, you keep giving them more value. You deliver value, they return for more, over and over. The more value you deliver, the more likely they are to return.
When you increase your perceived value, people will hire you and promote you and befriend you and champion for you and fall in love with you.
Q. How does one tackle a subject as big and broad as evaluating yourself?
I spent four years studying high-performers... the winners in all areas who deliver the top results. The key finding? High-performers develop a "personality specialty" of some kind. Just as a restaurant has a specialty dish, or a doctor has a specialty in her practice, the top achievers focus on a specialty personality trait.
You already have a specialty. It defines how you are different than everyone else in your team or category or field.
Instead of focusing on your "strengths," focus on your differences.
Different is better than better. Different doesn't try to turn you into something else. Different allows you to highlight the singular traits you already have within you. You aren't necessarily better than your competition. But you are already different.
As conversations become more compressed, and the marketplace more crowded, you need to know how others see you and respond to you. Rather than just knowing your strengths, you need to know your differences.
The best part is, you don't have to CHANGE who you are. You just have to become MORE of who you are.
Q. You also went back through different personality archetypes, digging up breakthroughs that help identify personalities. Can you share some examples?
Ask yourself a question: Am I a better driver than the average person? Just answer with a yes or no. Got your answer? Overwhelmingly, the odds are that you said "yes." Over and over, studies show that people overestimate their driving ability. When asked if they're a better driver than the average person, 93 percent will report that they are. (That's impossible, of course. On a bell curve, 50% of people are above average and 50% are below.)
Now ask yourself a different question: Am I more fascinating than the average person? If you don't think that you are more fascinating, you are not alone. Only 39% of people do.
Huh? Only 39 percent consider themselves more fascinating? But yet 93% consider themselves better drivers? Why do we so grossly overestimate our ability to drive, but we underestimate our ability to fascinate?
Most people believe they are less worthy of attention than their peers. Within a team, loud voices can drown out the quieter voices. Outgoing personalities can overshadow more subtle ones. That's why it's so important for organizations to understand how individuals contribute to the whole. There are many, many ways to communicate and become more valuable. Understanding the full spectrum helps to make sure that each person makes a real difference.
Differences create diversity, and make us stronger as a whole. If we partnered on a team, our differences would improve our results more than our similarities. Diversity strengthens a team and makes it more multifaceted, as long as each person understands and develops his strong suit.
You already have built-in differentiators, and they don't have to be brash and flamboyant. In fact, subtle personalities can have the most distinguishing features. Yet no matter what your natural approach, you must learn how it's being perceived by others. In order to communicate, you must learn how you communicate.
Q. Sally any other questions you want to answer? [YES!]
Q. How is this system different than a traditional personality assessment?
The traditional personality assessment is built on psychology. This is different. I built this system around branding, so you can see yourself from the outside in.
If you've done a test such as DISC or StrengthsFinder or Myers-Briggs, you already know how you see the world. This used to be the most important metric to know. It's still an important one today. But it's no longer the only metric. And it's not the one that matters most.
As life becomes more crowded and competitive, it matters far less how you see the world. It matters far more how the world sees you, at your best.