Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hey, look at me!

That would be me.
When I meet people in a professional setting I often feel that there's some kind of disconnect: something's not going right.

I, of course, assume they recognize that I'm the center of the universe. So I'm always disappointed. I think it's true that I learn more about them than they do about me. That's because I'm naturally curious -- you know, why would any self-respecting person be at this event? -- and also because I've learned to inquire about people in my many years as a journalist.

I'd like for them to know that I've been at the writing game as long as I have. Truth is, whatever they do I've probably done. I was at a seminar for job seekers recently, because I wanted to meet the presenter and offer my services to her clients. Her presentation was quite good, but I realized I could have given it. I've changed jobs so often, and worked with clients on their resumes and job searches, and I just know how it works.

Hey, look at me!

When you've been around as long as I have you find yourself working for much younger people. I have clients now who weren't even born when I started writing for a living. Heck, their parents weren't even married. Heck, they're parents were still in high school and picking at pimples.

Hey, read page ten of my resume!

I suddenly understood my predicament when I read an excellent piece by Dorie Clark on her Harvard Business Review blog. So that she won't have to, let me tell you upfront that she is a business strategy consultant, adjunct professor of business administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future.

She relates her own personal horror stories of being "misunderestimated," as our former president would say. She offers excellent advice on how to prepare before an anticipated meeting with someone and what to do after the initial encounter if the jerk wasn't paying attention.

And now I arrive at my reason for this post. Persuasion is successful when certain conditions are met. The first, according to Aristotle, is the "ethos" of the writer or speaker. This means the communicator's expertise and knowledge, as well as his overall moral character and history. If these are in good standing, the audience is more likely to accept what the writer or speaker says.

I can state with certainty that my wife and our three neurotic cats have no regard for my ethos.

You need to always ask: Does this person or this audience know that I know what I'm talking about? If the answer is no or you're not sure, you have some work to do. Dorie Clark's piece is a good start.

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