I remember when I was practicing securities law, I was always deeply aware of not getting too emotional at work or in front of clients. I’m not even sure what I thought “too emotional” really meant. Was it crying when another associate got my work assignments? Was it showing frustration when I felt that way at work? Or was it smiling and laughing too much at work?
The bottom line was I had a real fear of not being taken seriously as a woman lawyer. This was true when I was a young lawyer and continued when I became established and had many years of practice under my belt.
I also remember how resentful I would get deep down inside. I didn’t know it back then, but it was like a part of me, the real me, was not allowed to exist because I was a lawyer. I wish I’d known then what I know now.
Fast-forward 20 years. Having switched careers to be of better service to lawyers, my formal and informal research confirms what my gut told me all those years ago: it’s ok for me to be emotional. In fact, an intentional branding plan where you know your emotional value and use it to connect with your prospective clients, current clients and colleagues is the way to easily be seen and heard and grow your career.
My research shows that 75% of everything we buy is based on how we feel about it, not the content itself. The only emotion that really sells anything is happiness. Not frustration or anger or pain. Just happiness. Simple, but not easy.
The products industry figured this out long ago. Coke’s tagline in the past has been, “Open Happiness” and “Drink Happiness.” Disneyland is the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Zappos delivers happiness, not shoes. Get it? If the products industry can get sell inanimate objects this way and make billions doing so, we as women lawyers can do the same.
Your successful brand is composed of many different attributes. One of the components needed for a successful brand is your Emotional Resonance Factor®.
In my Emotional Resonance Factor programs, we tackle the subject of developing an intentional brand that emotionally resonates with your audience. It’s such an easy way to get people to notice you for the better, like you and give you career opportunities.
For lawyers (as for most professionals), this becomes a bit of a struggle. Why? Two reasons.
First, unfortunately what makes us great lawyers makes us less than great at marketing and branding ourselves to be seen and heard. As lawyers, we are trained to practice from our left-brain: very linear, analytical thinking that gets us answers and results.
Here’s the rub. That same way of left-brained thinking doesn’t allow us to reside in our right-brain very often. Our right-brain is where our creativity resides. It’s where our real selling points reside – with our emotions. As Dale Carnegie said, humans are not creatures of logic, but creatures of emotions. We don’t buy from our logical side. So why are we, as lawyers, so determined to sell ourselves and our services from our logical side? No one is buying our brilliance in this way. It’s a hard and painful marketing road.
Second, as a society and as a profession, we think “feelings” is a bad word. The word “feelings” is not bad. It is just a “change in energy state,” as Kay White explains in her brilliant book, The A to Z of Communication. So, for instance, one minute our circumstances during the day cause us to be happy (my deadline got pushed back and now I have more time), and the next minute angry (the partner didn’t like what I had to say in my memo to him). Get the picture? When you look at it as just a shift in energetic state, you can choose to see this notion of emotional selling differently for yourself.
Here’s the great news. As women lawyers, it is way easier for us to tap into our emotions and own them in society. They expect it from us. However, we’ve gotten too used to acting like our male counterparts in order to fit in and be accepted. What if we decided it was ok to own our femininity as women lawyers, use it for good and not evil, and be fantastic lawyers?
Interestingly enough, in any given workshop and training I hold within law firms, more men are fully engaged with the emotional brand element than women. I’ve done lots of research to figure out why. The men always tell me it is because they get the importance of the emotional side of the brand to sell. They also know they are not natural at the emotional side, as women are.
What does this mean for you? Stop and consider:
- How often are you aware of your emotions at work? Self-awareness is the first step.
- How often do you stifle your emotions and your real self as a lawyer?
- What would it look like if you were happy and showed up happy at work, around your colleagues, current clients and prospective clients?
It’s never too late to tap into the importance of discovering and owning your emotional brand component. As a young lawyer, you have more time to develop this very powerful component of your brand. My goal was for this article to get you thinking and give you a good start.
About the Author
Katy Goshtasbi is CEO of Puris Personal Brand Solutions, where she collaborates with lawyers on discovering, defining and selling their individual brands for career success, and is the secretary of the ABA Law Practice Division. Follow Katy on Twitter @PurisBranding.