By Steve Moran

This was authored by Alison Fragale, who is a mom, speaker, author, and professor of leadership. It has great application for senior living leaders. (Used with permission. Emphasis mine.)

I tell my teenage son to put his dirty clothes in the hamper.

He mumbles “Fine,” before he stomps away and rolls his eyes.

“Don’t roll your eyes at me,” I say.

“I didn’t!!” he yells.

“Yes, you did.”

“I said I would put them away, didn’t I? What’s your problem?”

… and the fun continues …

I believe my son when he says he didn’t roll his eyes.

  • He’s not aware he’s doing it.
  • He feels judged unfairly.

And, even if he did do it, he thinks his eyes shouldn’t matter to me. After all, he said “Fine.”

But they do matter to me. And they will matter more to his teachers, his bosses, and his friends if he keeps it up.

He doesn’t get to decide how I interpret his message. I do.

Not because I am his mom.

Because I am his audience.

My son’s approach is the rookie move. He’s very authentic, but not at all strategic.

He acts how he wants, doesn’t get good results, gets negative feedback, and then blames his audience for being judgmental idiots.

Even as adults, it’s easy to slide into this mindset. Anytime we say (or think) “I am who I am and anyone who doesn’t like it can screw off” we are approaching our relationships like a teenage boy.

No one aspires to manage their relationships like a teenage boy (not even teenage boys).

In my work, I am fortunate to meet many talented people, particularly women, who are pros at managing relationships — whether they’re trying to impress a boss, ace an interview, get a yes in a negotiation, or avoid a conflict.

Their styles are all different, but they have one thing in common. They work backwards, not forwards.

They start by asking themselves what effect they want to have on their audience.

They are self-aware of how their audience may judge (or misjudge) them.

They don’t abandon their principles, but they do adjust how they show up in the interaction to have the desired effect.

They say, “I am who I am. I am multidimensional, flexible, and perceptive. I know how to read a room.”

For example, if you have multiple kids you may parent each a bit differently to get what you want from them.

I certainly do. I have one I usually need to yell at, one I need to hug, and one I need to bribe. 😊

You probably wouldn’t say (or even think), “I am who I am and any kid who doesn’t like it can screw off.”

You adjust. You adapt. You read the room.

Adjusting your approach based on the audience doesn’t make you a phony.

It makes you a pro.

It makes you strategic AND authentic.

And that’s an unstoppable combination!

In Senior Living …

In senior living, unlike in most industries, leaders have an incredibly nonmonolithic constituency of people they speak to.

  • Residents from a different generation, actually a few very different generations
  • Mostly highly educated residents and their families who have accumulated enough wealth to pay for senior living
  • Peers who have become senior living leaders with vastly different journeys
  • Frontline workers who all struggle to make enough money to survive — many of whom grew up in a foreign country or had parents who grew up in a foreign country, and many for whom English is not their first language

These groups represent different audiences who need to be approached in very different ways. It is incredibly hard, because we all naturally believe that people see the world the way we see the world, and in truth we often see it very differently. If we, like a teenage boy, approach them all the same, we are setting ourselves up for failure and our audiences up for frustration and confusion.