Seriously. Don’t say this.
I have one point today. And I’m going to hammer it in until you’re sick of it. And until you never say these three words again. Because this is so incredibly important.
Shameless. Self. Promotion.
Every single time I interrupt what I’m talking about to parenthetically insert the words “shameless self-promotion”, I’m making it all about me when it’s really about you.
Which is so not fair to you.
The world’s worst doctor.
Pretend for a minute that your friend just found out she has skin cancer. Tfu tfu tfu, god forbid, may it never happen, etc. But let’s pretend.
You go with her to the doctor’s office, because you’re a really great friend. Your friend is feeling distraught, and is desperate to know how quickly she can take care of this thing. You squeeze her hand.
Your friend: “I’m kind of freaking out here. What are our options?”
The doctor: “Well, there is a procedure, but — oh god, this is so embarrassing, I’m such a whore for even mentioning this — we do a thing here at the hospital that has a — total shameless self-promotion here — 99% success rate. You probably don’t want to hear about it.”
Your friend: “No, tell me! I want to live! It’s cancer!”
The doctor: “Okay, well, it’s this thing we do that — shameless plug for my own services — takes three hours and then you’re fine. It — I’m sorry — can be kind of expensive sometimes though. So you’re probably not interested and I totally understand.”
Your friend: “No, I am!”
The doctor: “You know, if it were up to me, I’d never take money for this because really I just want to help people. But you know how it is, I have to make rent and stuff. I shouldn’t even have brought it up.”
THE POINT: Don’t be this guy.
Whatever it is that you do, it helps someone.
Your art or your music or your life coaching may not cure cancer, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not vital and necessary to the people who really need it.
Your Right People.
You make something beautiful that eases someone’s pain. Or reminds them who they really are.
You listen to their hurts and witness their experiences. You give them what they need in the moment that they need it most.
You make them laugh.
The specifics don’t matter. Your Right People need whatever it is you have in whatever form you give it. It’s not fair to them when you shift the attention from their pain to your discomfort around mentioning the fact that you can help.
THE POINT: It’s not fair to make it about your discomfort when they’re the ones who need you to help them with their discomfort.
What’s really going on here.
I get that you don’t want to be all “me me me”.
I get the embarrassment and the “What if they think I’m an ass?”-ness of it all. So yeah, of course we have make an awkward joke about how embarrassing it is.
Problem is, now the focus is on us and not them. The irony is that it’s actually more “me me me” to ramble on about how shameless it is than it is to just tell them what you do that might help.
Your intention? Completely honorable. You want to make it clear that you’re not an ass, and you aren’t.
But in practice… I don’t know how to say this in a way that’s not obnoxious, so I’ll just say it.
You just (accidentally) came across as a total ass.
Yes, it’s unfair. I know. It’s just that we all need a better way to not come across as an ass.
And the way to do that is to focus on the other person’s pain and the other person’s problems, and not on how awkward we feel about the fact that we might have a possible solution.
THE POINT: When you mention the thing you do, it’s not talking about the thing, it’s brainstorming solutions.
Stop implying that telling me how you can help is shameful.
Someone who’s a total ass is going to be a total ass, regardless of whether or not he apologizes for it.
It’s not like you’re going around yelling “buy, buy, buy!” or telling me in the middle of a chatty conversation that prices go up on Tuesday and I should “act now — before it’s too late to save 50% off!”
All you’re doing is telling me more about the thing that can help me. Putting a link in your sidebar to a product I might find useful — especially if it’s yours — is just a nice, considerate thing to do. That way I don’t have to look for it.
But when you insert the requisite “look how obnoxious I am” bit, you’re making everybody uncomfortable. And every time you imply that helping me is something to be embarrassed about, we all lose.
THE POINT: There is nothing to be ashamed of but shame itself. And even that? Completely unnecessary.
Always on my mind.
I just spent four days talking to some of the most smart, interesting, creative and reassuringly wacky people ever. Entrepreneurs, writers, musicians, and helper mice.
People with good hearts. People with something important to share with the world. Sometimes with something important to share with me.
And instead of just sharing it, we all manage to screw it up. Not by being embarrassed, but by making that the focus.
But it’s not fair to pass it on — even unintentionally — to the people we’re trying to help.
Sneezing shame and embarrassment and self-loathing … I know it sounds very sexy, but it’s not.
So I’d love it if we could take the “shameless” out of shameless self-promotion. And the “self”. And the “promotion”.