Ever since I was a kid, being a disturbance has always been one of my favorite pastimes.
And I don’t mean cruising my pimped out ’67 Impala down Washington Avenue bumping a Dr. Dre record at testicle-rattling volume.
Not that kind of disturbance.
DID YOU KNOW: The word “disturb” comes from the Latin emotere – the same derivative as the word “emotion”?
That’s all you’re doing when you’re being a disturbance: Evoking emotion. Interrupting the quiet. Unsettling the peace. Upsetting the mental landscape. Could be positive, negative or neutral. Doesn’t matter. Like a good pot of soup, the ingredients are equally as important as the consistency with which you stir.
Today we’re going to talk about how to be delightfully disturbing without being painful annoying:
1. Bite your tongue. Don’t say anything until the last five minutes of your next meeting. That way you can collect you thoughts, clarify your position and speak confidently. By looking around, listening and learning first, your comment will contain its maximum amount of brilliance.
Then, you come out of nowhere when the meeting leader says, “Does anybody have any questions?” or “Any final thoughts before we finish?” You raise your hand and say: “I had an observation…” All the people in the room will turn their heads, rotate their chairs and look in the direction of the one person who hasn’t said anything all morning – you.
Then, you articulate your idea. And even if you only say one thing, it becomes more profound because scarcity creates a perception of value. Ultimately, your calmness, patience and quietude will draw them in. In the words of Barack Obama, “Power grows through prudent use.” Does your tongue have teeth marks on it?
2. I respectfully disagree. The power of this statement is inversely related to the number of other people in the room courageous enough to challenge the speaker. That’s why it’s especially powerful during a meeting with your superiors.
My suggestion: Don’t save your opinion for later. You may never get a chance to voice it. Be a relentless boat rocker. A courageous wave maker. A persistent envelope pusher. They’ll change your job title to DOD: Director of Disturbances. Are you willing to be the only contrarian in the room?
3. Laugh out loud – loudly. My friend Neen James has the most contagious laugh on the planet. Every time her funny bone takes a hit, the people around her are immediately disturbed in the best way possible way. It’s truly a sight to see. And Neen taught me that too many people get into the habit of suppressing their laughter, not wanting to draw attention to themselves. Particularly if they have a loud or unique laugh.
“Stop suppressing your chuckles,” she suggests. “Make it loud and don’t worry about who hears you. Laughter is contagious.”
You don’t have to wait and see if the king laughs first. Nobody is going to think you’re a terrible person if you let it out. All they’re going to do is start wondering what’s so darn funny. Mission accomplished. When was the last time you purposely constricted your laughter in public?
4. Learn to sniff out falsehood. There’s fine art to calling bullshit on people in a compassionate (yet challenging) way. I find that posing penetrating, thought-provoking questions is an effective practice for doing so. Try these: What evidence do you have to support that belief? Why is that important to you? What lies are those excuses guarding?
Interestingly, calling bullshit is a lot like yoga: Whichever posture hurts the most is the one you need the most. Similarly, the people who become the most disturbed when you call them out are the ones who probably need it the most. How acute is your nose for falsehood?
5. Maintain a constant posture of challenging the process. Be the greasy wrench in the rusty gears of the status quo by asking, “Why do we have to do it that way?” Ask that question over and over until the majority answer is, “We don’t.” You’ll discover that when you show up in full voice and speak the unspokens – you send people on mental journeys.
And even if they didn’t want go to there in the first place, once they arrive, they’ll be glad you took them there. Or they’ll have you terminated. Either way, it’s gonna be a great weekend. But only if you’re willing to ask a question that will positively upset someone’s whole day. Might be worth it. What unwritten rules are driving you crazy?
6. Make people confront you, as well as themselves. The two questions at stake are: How do people experience you? And, how do people experience themselves when they’re with you? The best confrontational strategy is to lovingly challenge people to quit escaping reality. Even a gentle suggestion can be devastatingly effective.
For example, while listening to someone complaining about his problems, you might offer the following: “Dave, I wonder if that’s what your boss (actually) said, or what YOU interpreted your boss as having communicated.” Be playfully terrorizing. Let some truth slip, make people squirm in their seats and jolt them out of their petty preoccupations.
You’ll find that the discomfort of self-confrontation will disturb people into action. Are you a putting up a verbal mirror so others might experience themselves as you do?
7. Pursue your passion publicly. In the book Do It! Let’s Get Off Our Butts, Peter McWilliams write, “People don’t like to see others pursuing their dreams – it reminds them how far from living their own dreams they are. In talking you out of your dreams, they are taking themselves back into their comfort zone.”
Similarly, Steven Pressfield writes in The War of Art: “When people see you living your authentic life, it drives them crazy because they know they’re not living their own.”
The point is: You can disturb people without even saying a word. All you have to do is validate your existence and fulfill your mandate, thereby reaching your quota of usefulness for each day. Just make sure you do so in broad daylight, where nobody can miss it. How could you shine your light so bright that even the people who look away (still) feel it?
8. Transform your emotional risk paradigm. Start by making the conscious choice to develop a working relationship with your emotional reality. Next, remind yourself that practicing courageousness of heart produces gorgeousness of spirit.
Then, remember the trifecta: (1) Brand your honesty, (2) Leverage your vulnerability to earn people’s trust, and (3) Fully integrate your humanity into your profession. Your presence will become so emotionally attractive that it will become remarkable. And what’s remarkable is disturbing. What emotions or states of being do you need to be able to access for long-term success?
9. Wherever you go, compel people to make a choice. Jesus always struck me as a delightfully disturbing man. Wherever he went, he created a crisis by compelling people to do something. His demanding vision asked people to commit. To drop everything. To make an immediate decision. “Come, follow me,” he said. “Develop deep faith, put your body on the line and give up all that is secondary.”
Wow. That would disturb the hell out of me. I wonder what would happen if you set a goal for this year to become a more crisis-producing person. Do you love people enough to upset them?
REMEMBER: When you delightfully disturb people, you constructively challenge them.
Go evoke some emotion.
Go interrupt some quiet.
Go unsettle some peace.
Be a disturbance.
Now if you’ve excuse me, my ’67 Impala is waiting outside to take me to today’s speech.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Are you delightfully disturbing or painfully annoying?
LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.
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