Virtual Walls and Reality Checks

berlin09-1Do you have a business and wonder why customers aren’t pounding at the door to buy your great product?  Are you a high schooler and wondering why every college isn’t recruiting you?  Are you simply a person who wonders why someone doesn’t like you?

Sometimes the answer is both simple and out of your control.  Some people have odd tastes and idiosyncratic needs that you simply can’t satisfy.  That happens.  To repeat something your grandmother probably said, “you can’t please everyone.”

However, there are times when we’re at least partly responsible for the problem.  We surround ourselves with barriers that discourage others from wanting to deal with us.  Examples:

  • Language: the use of overly formal language or slang makes us seem difficult to understand or standoffish.
  • Appearance:  the initial reaction most people have to you is based on how you look, not what you say.  That’s where the Internet offers a great advantage, because it allows words to come first.
  • Word-of-mouth:  people tend to be skeptical about what you say about yourself, but they listen to what others say about you.

What they say is affected by things you’ve done in the past, some of which you may not even remember.  If you have a business, what they say is affected by what your staff do and don’t do.  However, you can’t deal with an issue if you don’t know about it.

Trust in what others say is what makes bullying so nasty.  Bullying takes a trusted information channel and fills with with lies and slander.  Victims can feel helpless, although they have things they can do.  Identifying the problem really is half the battle.

Every so often, you need a reality check.  That can take the form of a heart-to-heart conversation with people you trust or having a researcher do an audit with your customers.  You need to know what they really think and decide whether you need to make adjustments to achieve what you want.

And that brings us to another old saying inscribed in a wall at UChicago, “you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

When was the last time you did a reality check?


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