“Authentic Marketing,” Part 4: An Awareness-Building Exercise | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

“Authentic Marketing,” Part 4: An Awareness-Building Exercise

In an earlier post, I suggested that we can actually enjoy marketing when we’re able to tap into our natural compassion and concern for others.  As I said, I think this often requires us to let go of the ways we protect ourselves from getting hurt when we interact with another person.

For example, if we’re at a networking event, and we’re worried that others won’t take seriously what we have to offer, maybe we’ll loudly brag about our products and services, not letting anyone get a word in edgewise.  However, this tends to get us exactly what we don’t want — people we interact with feel annoyed and don’t want to buy from us.

It would be nice if we could simply drop all these self-protection strategies and “get real.”  Unfortunately, it isn’t usually that easy.  Many of us developed these strategies a long time ago, and have been relying on them for a long time to get through life.  Thus, they’ve become unconscious and habitual — we no longer even notice we’re using them.

How do we get conscious of the ways we’re sabotaging ourselves?  In this post, I want to offer an exercise I’ve found very helpful in creating this kind of awareness.  It’s simple, but it can be surprisingly intense and revealing.

You’ll need a partner to do this exercise.  Stand across from each other and make eye contact, remaining silent for a few minutes.  As you face the other person, silently ask yourself a few questions:

1.  Where am I tense? Bring your awareness into your body, and notice any tight places.  For example, maybe your shoulders are tensing up, as if you’re about to be attacked and you’re preparing to defend yourself.  Perhaps you find your lips curling into a strained grin, as if you need to please the other person or convince them everything’s okay.

2.  What am I afraid they’ll do? Are you worried that the other person will do something hurtful?  Maybe, for instance, they’ll turn their back and ignore you?  Yell at you and accuse you of screwing up?  Deceive you and take advantage of you in some way?

3.  How do I want them to see me? What do you want the other person to think about you?  For example, perhaps you want them to think you’re totally calm about doing this exercise?  That you’re “nice” and not dangerous to them?  That you’re tough and you can protect yourself if need be?

4.  What do I want them to do? Is there something you want (or maybe even need) from them right now?  Do you want them to smile at you?  Or maybe you just want them to go away and leave you alone?

Now, consider the possibility that you’re bringing exactly the same attitudes and desires into every interaction.  If you’re feeling afraid of the other person, for example, you’re probably feeling afraid of a lot of people you deal with in your daily life.

As you might imagine, this exercise is often uncomfortable.  If you don’t like “awkward silences” in conversations, you sure won’t enjoy this!  However, the awareness it can create is invaluable.  Often, just realizing the ways you’re tensing up, protecting yourself from the other person, trying to convince them of something, and so on is enough to help you let go of those strategies.

As Fritz Perls, the creator of Gestalt therapy, put it, awareness by itself is transformative.

17 thoughts on
“Authentic Marketing,” Part 4: An Awareness-Building Exercise

  1. Evita

    Hi Chris

    I think being authentic is a big part of everything today, and marketing is no exception. I think we are at a point where people had enough and are now starting to quickly see through so many deceptive ways of selling a product or service, or ones that just don’t offer any value.

    I know for me authenticity is a foundation for not only any business areas, but more importantly personal areas.

    And I think there is no coincidence why this is happening, I think in the future, perhaps sooner rather than later, we will develop a sense to be more in tune with each other’s thoughts and ways, where the ways of the old, such as hiding things behind people’s back, etc… will be a thing of that past. Authentic living is thus paving a way forward to that new way of being.

  2. Chris - Post author

    Hi Evita — I like that way of putting it, and I always enjoy hearing about your vision for the world. That definitely sounds refreshing — just being able to admit what’s going on for us, as opposed to creating cognitive dissonance by pretending we’re not feeling the way we are, and having ourselves feel stifled.

  3. Davina

    Hi Chris.
    I like the idea of stopping and asking these questions, on a regular basis. Our minds tend to race and this can, I think on some level, be disconcerting in itself. We feel disconnected without realizing why. I’d imagine this causing us to raise our guard. Great suggestions.

  4. Evelyn Lim

    I confess to being guilty of “wanting to look good” in social settings sometimes. It is the fear in feeling small that keeps me separated. However I do realize that people are drawn to me when I am authentic. I hope to lose more and more of the shell that I have on for a long time, by shredding off its layers.

  5. Chris - Post author

    Hi Davina — that’s a good point — a lot of people seem to be caught up in compulsive thinking, even when they’re around others and they’re trying to interact, and that can give conversations a disjointed (and unpleasant) quality. I try to really bring silence and presence to a face-to-face interaction with another person who seems jumpy or distractable to see if I can relieve that suffering.

  6. Chris - Post author

    Hi Evelyn — I’m sure we’re all “trying to look good” in one way or another, and probably in ways we’re not even conscious of. I think that’s true — any desire to create a certain image for others to see is going to create a separation between us and them. When I feel that separation in my own case, I know it’s probably because I’m trying to look like “Mr. Successful.”

  7. Hilary

    H Chris .. it’s surprising how often we get nervous .. and tense up .. and perhaps even ‘dont’ want to go’ because we’re so anxious .. but if we’re just us, join in, participate with all around us, without criticising the situation – we’d all be so much more comfortable and more at ease with our surroundings and thus fellow colleagues. If we’re open it will make life much easier – we can say no .. if we really don’t want to do something, or don’t like something .. we do make life difficult for ourselves .. and that doesn’t help.

    Great series of questions .. they’re the same as us .. we’re all cabbages in the front row too – so don’t be frightened – just do it .. get going, relax, be at peace and all will be well – Hilary

  8. Chris - Post author

    Hi Hilary — I liked your point about saying no if you don’t want to do something — if you find yourself really not wanting to go to a networking event today, for instance, it’s not going to benefit you or anyone else to force yourself to go because you supposedly “have to.” When we don’t acknowledge that we have a choice to do something or not, I think, resentment tends to creep in.

  9. Sara


    I copied this exercise to try it out with JC later. I’ve done similar exercises and they’ve been very difficult for me. I’ve learned I’m not very trusting of other people — something I’m always working on.

    In addition, I have a high need for space around me. This is something I’ve struggled to change because I’m often not even aware of it until I realize I’m backing away from someone who’s in my space. I actually knocked over a table once because this guy was in my space and kept pushing me…it was VERY embarrassing:~)

    Then again, I’ve made a lot of good changes in my life recently. I’ve really working on trust and so, I will this exercise a try and report back to you later on the results.

    I can’t believe you mentioned Fritz Perls!! My ex-husband was very involved Gestalt Therapy. You don’t hear very much about this anymore…at least I don’t. One of my favorite books was “Don’t Push the River: It Flows by Itself” by Barry Stevens:~)

  10. Mark

    This exercise is very valuable. Being aware of ourselves is so very important for it is though our awareness that we realize those things that may be sabotaging what we are intending to do. Great post.

  11. Chris - Post author

    Hi Sara — I hope the exercise is helpful to you. That’s interesting — I wonder what’s underneath the lack of trust. I wonder if it would be useful to ask what people are going to do to you if you get close to them. I know that, when I look into this question myself, very specific answers come up. As for Gestalt therapy, I think it’s a foundation of what we might call the “Personal Development 2.0″ movement that I think is on the rise right now, which is based more on simply helping people become aware of what they’re thinking and feeling than ordering them to follow a list of 100 success tips.

  12. Chris - Post author

    Hi Mark — I like that way of putting it — this exercise has the very practical benefit of helping us see where we’re sabotaging ourselves by unconsciously driving people away.

  13. Jenny Ann Fraser

    Hi Chris,
    Thank you for this really informative series. I’ve been doing some reading regarding marketing lately as I’m in the process of starting my own business. Authentic Marketing is definitely the way to go.
    What I have found, is that the idea of being authentic, is far more liberating and for me less frightening than having to put on some “Face” and live in fear that I’ll be found out.
    I suppose that learning to love and respect yourself as well as others is key.

  14. Chris - Post author

    Hi Jenny — yes, that’s my experience as well, that it takes a lot of energy to “look good,” and it’s no wonder that we’ll tire out more easily if we force ourselves to do that in addition to working on the tasks we really care about.

  15. Jannie Funster

    Hey, Chris. I like what Hilary says about just jumping in somwtimes when we feel like it — but not to that annoying factore you write about heree

    I am wondering what part passion for the product / service plays in this. I think a big factor must be really believing in what you’re trying to sell, especially if we know we’ll really be improving peoples’ lives. That would take care of a lot of the doubt and worry, perhaps.

  16. Chris - Post author

    Hi Jannie — thanks, I like that observation. I think these exercises can help us recognize the ways we aren’t trusting that other people are going to see the value of what we’re offering — the ways in which we need to make special efforts, supposedly, to have them want to be with us. It feels great, at least to me, to just let go and trust that I’m offering value, rather than trying so hard to show that I can give it.

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