Let the truth be known: I HATED wearing a nametag 24-7…for about the first six months.
I was stared at.
I was ridiculed.
I was called horrible names.
I was even challenged to a couple of fights!
And that was just my family.
Still, I kept my commitment. I vowed to wear a nametag all day, every day, for the rest of my life to encourage friendliness and approachability. No matter how uncomfortable it was. No matter how much bullshit I had to put up with.
But after a while, something happened: I began to learn new things.
Things I never could have read in any book, on any website or from any television program. All because I threw myself out there. Into that ever expanding abyss known as ‘Your Zone of Discomfort.’
Now, I know: there are already a million articles written about this cliché subject, right?
Actually it’s closer to 45,000. (I went onto Google and did a search for ‘step out of your comfort zone.’) But still, since you’ve no doubt read a few of those articles yourself, I’ll get right down to business: this stuff works! Let’s explore two examples…
What’s Your Name Again?
Here’s one of the biggest downfalls of wearing a nametag 24-7: since everyone in the world knows your name, they expect YOU will always remember THEIR names too!
This is literally impossible. According to Sigmund Freud’s basic writings, ‘A person’s name is the single context of human memory most apt to be forgotten.’
And yet, people still jokingly harass me when I screw up or forget their names!
Then again, I want to practice what I preach. And although this ‘assumed name reciprocation’ seems unfair, after a while I decided: well, I guess I have no choice. I must become AMAZING at remembering people’s names.
And believe me; I’ve butchered a name or two in my day. Talk about discomfort! I think it’s the worst feeling in the world. Especially for someone like me, whose books and speeches are supposed to spread the message of approachability.
But now, after six years and approximately 15,000+ nametag-related encounters, I’ve become a master at remembering names. Not because I used any particular memory trick or technique (although many of those methods were quite effective) but because the discomfort, or fear thereof, forced me to learn.
Make It Snappy
Too few businesspeople realize that in REAL networking, you’ll be rushed, caught off guard and asked unexpected questions. You’ll meet people on busses and in bathrooms. You’ll address three strangers at a time, get interrupted mid-commercial, and sometimes, you won’t get a chance to say a single word until the last five seconds of a conversation. And all the while, you won’t have time to decide whether or not you should give your Elevator Speech, 30 Second Commercial or Defining Statement!
In other words, you’ll be uncomfortable.
This reminds me of my first year as a nametag crusader, when I still didn’t quite ‘have it down.’ Initially, when people asked me why I was wearing a nametag, I’d start this ridiculously long, complex rant about friendliness, conversation, approachability and the like. Some people stuck around. Some people walked away. Some people thought I was crazy!
After a while it evolved into something called ‘The Old 13er,’ which I wrote about in my first book, HELLO, my name is Scott. My hypothesis was that I could explain why I was wearing a nametag to anyone, anytime, anywhere – in 13 seconds or less.
That worked for a while. But often times I’d stumble over my words or get interrupted mid-sentence. Not to mentioned I sounded like a robot, which didn’t effectively communicating my message. So eventually, I simplified it. From 60 seconds to 13 seconds to the shortened version: ‘I wear a nametag all the time to make people friendlier.’
And it stuck. No pun intended.
But it took four years to get to those few words. Four years of meeting thousands of people and uncomfortably stumbling around with my explanation. In other words, four years of practice. But now, I’ve got it down. Because that’s what happens when you constantly practice and experience uncomfortable situations. You get good. And I promise you, the more often you throw yourself into the sea; the less likely the waves are to bother you.
It Hurts So Good
Brian Tracy once said, ‘You will not grow unless it hurts.’
Now, this article isn’t necessarily about pain, although discomfort can be painful! But he makes a good point. So here’s what I want you to do:
1) Write out a list of three communication-based experiences in the last month that made you totally uncomfortable. Maybe it was an awkward pause in a conversation; perhaps a forgotten line during speech to a group subordinates, or even an incident when you blanked on someone’s first name ten seconds after meeting him.
2) When you complete your list of three, make sub-lists for each of the items called ‘Five Things I Learned From This Uncomfortable Experience.’
3) Do that each month for the next year.
Then remember the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, ‘Do something everyday that scares you.’
Because ultimately, that’s how you learn.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Are you learnig from discomfort on a daily basis?