A few weeks ago I attended my regular NLP “top up” session (as a good friend of mine once put it: “a bubble bath for the soul”) and one of the many subjects we covered was the evoking subject of “aliens”, and more specifically how to deal with them.
Now, for those who are unfamiliar with NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), metaphors are often used (sometimes to ludicrous excess) to describe things we would otherwise have great trouble articulating. It’s a similar trick used by writers and teachers to spread ideas in ways that everyone could understand, with NLP taking it a little deeper in order to change thought processes. In this instance, “aliens” was the metaphor for something far more mysterious and fear-inducing that we can all relate to.
There’s a reason why aliens is a term typically used to describe human beings who are perceived as “different”, particularly if they are somewhere they are not supposed to be. And Xenophobia literally means “a fear of aliens”, but is defined as: “a dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.” Luckily, most people aren’t xenophobic in the traditional sense, but a fear of aliens isn’t always quite so insidious. Aliens are, if you think about it: “someone who isn’t you”.
It works on both an individual sense, and in a business sense. And no matter how much you love meeting and working with new people (as many entrepreneurs do – it’s a pretty major chunk of the job description), that doesn’t stop a sense of anxiety when meeting and working with someone for the first time. It doesn’t matter whether that someone is a prospect client or a direct competitor. Until you know more about them than what can be gleaned from what they look like – they’re an alien. And that can be scary. Heck, it is scary, especially when there’s money on the line and interacting with that alien “well” is the only option.
Some of you reading this may already know me. For those who don’t… I stand out a fair bit. This has plenty of upsides in this industry (and in many others too) but there are a few slight downsides. The more you stand out, the more alien others feel in comparison to you. The same can be the case for businesses: if you’re doing things differently (even though that’s a very positive thing as far as niching is concerned) it can lead to a feeling of isolation. If anyone reading this has ever struggled to come up with any joint venturing options, you probably know what I mean.
In fact the problem is exacerbated in a formal business setting: everyone wears a suit, and there’s only so much you can learn about a person from their shoes. The less you can read, the easier it is to see that alien as a potential problem. Will they speak the same “language” as me? Are they after the same thing? Do we share the same values?
It’s easy to get bogged down in the idea of aliens being a threat until proven otherwise, especially in business. But barrelling into any meeting with that mindset (usually subconcious, might I add) won’t help either of you.
And here’s how you can change that…
It sounds a little woo-woo, but bear with me. A “golden assumption” is basically a positive assumption that can be made about anyone, which is more-than-likely to be correct. If you’re talking at an individual level, you can relatively safely assume that the alien you are engaging with…
– Loves their family at some level
– Has or wants a hobby or interest beyond work
– Mostly tries to do the right thing
– Doesn’t actively wish harm on others
Now, flip it and apply it to alien businesses. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, and the bigger the business the harder it is to read them ‘as a whole’. However, if you’re opeating at a SME level, you can relatively safely assume that the alien business you’re engaging with…
– Takes care of their employees as best as they can
– Is ultimately striving for a work/life balance
– Tries to be ethical
– Doesn’t actively wish for other businesses to fail
“We have more in common than what divides us”
Stepping away from the more golden side of the assumptions, it’s fair to say your trials and tribulations are much the same: sales, lead generation, engagement with clients, wishing to recruit the right team… it’s the kind of stuff that most, if not all, businesses are forever working to improve.
We all want sales. We all want time. We all want profit. That much is obvious, and most of us want to get there without shedding any blood in the process. If we barrel into every client meeting, every networking opportunity and every handshake with that firmly in mind, there’s a chance it might go a little smoother.
[clickToTweet tweet=”How should we deal with aliens? Simple. Remember they’re human – just like you – and work with them. ” quote=”How should we deal with aliens? Simple. Remember they’re human – just like you – and work with them. “]
So, how should we deal with aliens? Simple. Remember they’re human – just like you – and work with them. My employer and mentor Dan Bradbury has repeatedly set out what makes a Gazelle in terms of mindset, and I think he sums up what I’m trying to say quite nicely here:
“Gazelles create partnership ecosystems. understand that what goes around, comes around. They won’t screw people over because they know that it will only come back to haunt them. Like Elon Musk, Uber, Air BnB and more they are collaborative and keen to share information. The believe in win/win agreements. The more they help their partners and customers win the more they win, creating an upward spiral of growth.”
The most successful, and the most respected businesses play well with others. Remember that next time your potential fear of aliens gets the better of you.