Each month a select group of professionals from a wide range of small business disciplines get together to share their pearls of wisdom around a specific theme at the Speaking that Connects Business Breakfast Forum.  I thought you might enjoy the ideas shared during October’s Forum where the theme was Mirrors and Masks in Business. 

Masks can be an asset and a ticket to acceptance.  We all face situations where we dress, speak or act appropriately to meet the expectations of the group we are in.  Wearing a suit or carrying a briefcase may feel like a costume, but it can also facilitate connection and trust.  People tend to accept those who are most similar to themselves.

Mirrors encourage looking in as well as looking at.  Every now and then, it’s good to face the mirror, decide not to be so hard on yourself and acknowledge that you are OK.  On the flip side, you might look in the mirror and recognize you are a work in progress and there is room for improvement.  (It’s helpful to practice a little humility once in a while!)

Masks need not be negative.  We often think of masks as deceptive or false.  We hide behind them and conceal our true selves.  But if you think of masking tape and paint, where masking is a form of protection and preservation, you may get a whole new picture!  For example, therapists, coaches and consultants are required to mask their feelings to eliminate bias and allow for objectivity.  Having a boundary that masks a personal point of view can be immensely helpful to clients.  

Listening is a type of mirror.  Especially when interviewing a potential client, a good coach or therapist will reflect the client’s comments back to them to ensure the communication was understood as intended.  Listening fully is a prerequisite for mirroring back what someone has said.

Environmental masks.  “I have several rooms in my production studio, some neater than others.  Sometimes I lead my clients to the more organized environment, assuming it would be preferable.  Because of the nature of my work, I have found that this is not always true.  The overly packed technological environment has often times been more comfortable for a client.”

Masks can expand your talents.  “I once bought a very simple Halloween costume… a baseball cap with long brown hair hanging all the way around the brim.  I imagined myself a redneck, which was totally out of character for me.  Once I put it on, I suddenly felt free to become that character and speak with a country twang.  What surprised me was how this simple mask caused something in me to break loose.  The experience expanded my sense of self.”

Masks and Career Transitions.  “When I stopped being an attorney and became a meditation coach, my clothes, speech and behavior changed significantly.  Now I look back at my first career and see how it masked my being who I was meant to be.”