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Perfection Blocks Connection

“Let’s run through it again,” she said. “I want it to be perfect.”

I was helping an executive prepare to speak to a large group of employees about teamwork and leadership. She had an inspiring perspective and helpful insights but was nervous about making a mistake in front of the staff.

I’d encouraged her to practice and keep some bulleted notes handy during the presentation to avoid sounding too scripted or rehearsed.

“It’s better if you’re not perfect,” I suggested. “It’ll put everyone at ease and make you more relatable.”

After a brief pause during which she may have contemplated firing me, she said, “Let’s run through it again.”

On the day she spoke, I was disappointed but not surprised to see the employees distracted and disengaged during most of the meeting. The executive was so self-conscious – intent on protecting herself from any judgment or embarrassment – that she wasn’t engaged either. It was as if she was reading from a book.

Unfortunately, I’m sure the audience missed out on most of the high-quality information she shared while their minds drifted.

There was simply no connection.

Many mistakenly believe that being authentic, sharing our stories, and letting down our guard threatens approval and belonging. This can be especially prominent in the professional world; professional presence is often equated with having a façade of perfection.

This misguided approach actually creates a barrier to connection, alienates us from others who assume we “have it all together” when they don’t, and misses the chance to inspire and influence.

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown defines connection as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

People want to see the real you, that you’re a fallible human just like them and that you care about them and not just your image.

If you want to increase your connection one-on-one, in groups and during presentations, here are some things to keep in mind:

Our stories connect us.

Tell your stories and don’t leave out the details that show your humanness.

Curiosity connects us.

Release the need to impress by spewing out all your knowledge like a laundry list and spend some time showing interest in others. Ask questions and really listen to the answers.

Energy connects us.

Let go of self-consciousness and become other-conscious. This elevates your energy in palpable ways. John Maxwell says, “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”

Influence is not about showing off, it’s about showing up. Show up as yourself, the unique and imperfect human you are, and the connection will flow.


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