We all know trying to please everyone is impossible, so why do we feel like failures when some people don’t like what we do? Why do we compromise on what we know would be our best work, in order to try to please a few more people? Why do we walk on eggshells trying to make sure we don’t say or do something “wrong”? Why are we so worried about what everyone else thinks? Why is it that even if 99% of the people we serve like what we do, we focus on the 1% who don’t?
I think it’s because we all want to be liked and we were raised to be polite. But being polite doesn’t mean you have to stop speaking the truth, giving your opinion, and displaying who you are. This used to be a huge struggle for me, and it still gets me when I don’t work on it.
When I give my presentations and seminars I want to keep the audience engaged and entertained. I want them in a state that allows them to easily pick up and use the ideas, takeaways, and action steps I’m giving them.
So I keep my eye on the reactions in the room. When I see people smiling, nodding, sitting up straight, reacting to what I’m saying, and responding to my questions I’m feeling good. But then I see someone looking at their phone – someone in the back just got up and left. My mind starts telling me stories:
“Greg, you’re blowing it. People are bored. They’re checking their email. That one person thinks you’re so bad that he got up and left! Why did you ever think you were a good speaker? You should give this up!” (That’s some real good self talk, isn’t it? I was killing my energy with my own thoughts.)
Even if I got a great response at the end of my talk and multiple people came up afterwards and told me how much they enjoyed it, I would still be thinking about the person who looked at their phone and the one who left.
Worrying about pleasing everyone in the room made me question everything I was doing and was hurting my ability to be a great speaker.
A friend helped me. He said, “Greg, no matter where you speak and no matter how great a speaker you are, you are never going to reach everyone. And you have to make peace with that. If you connect with 80% of the audience and help them get the outcome they were looking for, then you’ve done your job well.”
I also realized that if I tried to please everyone I would have to change my style, my personality, and maybe even my message. I would end up with a watered down, vanilla, luke warm thing that no one would really like anyway. So why not do what I love to do, in my style, and please my ideal audience and myself?
Then I had an epiphany at one of my events. During my hour long presentation there was a guy near the front who had a harsh look on his face. He often had his arms folded across his chest. At times he would pick up his phone and it looked like he was texting or checking his emails. I thought the guy hated my talk and I had to quit looking at him because he was freaking me out.
But after it was over he came up to me and told me how much he enjoyed my presentation. He even took notes on his phone for some of my points that he really liked. He couldn’t wait to try out some of my ideas in his business. Wait, WHAT?! That guy liked my talk? Maybe I should stop trying to read people’s minds and just do the best presentation I can do. That’s all I can do. Then it’s up to the audience to decide how they respond.
And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. Don’t get me wrong, I still let the people who don’t like my stuff get me down a little. But, I focus on the people who do like it and I keep finding better ways to serve them.
You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do. – Eleanor Roosevelt
It’s time to STOP trying to please everyone. It’s time to try something different. Let’s figure out who we care the most about, who shares our values and give them our very best. Let’s get loyal, evangelical customers for life instead of aiming for the lowest common denominator who will drop us if the wind blows funny.
I’d rather have a smaller group of raving fans that I don’t have to constantly chase for repeat business, wouldn’t you?
Raving fans are special. They:
- Feel like they’re part of your family
- Tell everyone about you
- Stick with you
- Buy from you even when you’re not having a sale
- Never go anywhere else
I’ve found that developing raving fans makes it easier to really enjoy what you do and increase your profits than trying to be all things to all people. It also comes with some extra bonuses. You get to love what you do and that leads to doing your best work. The hope is that you become so good at your work that to your raving fans, and to yourself, your work becomes art.
Questions for comments: How do you decide whom to please? How has narrowing your focus helped you?