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Demonstrate Humanity

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

For this, the final post in our trust recipe series, I get to practice what I preach and demonstrate some raw humanity: This post should have gone live a week ago. But I came down with an awful cold. And it wiped me out. For days.

Now it’s an entirely different year, and I’m playing catch-up because life trumps goals, healing takes time, and no one wants to read the ramblings of a cough-syruped blogger anyway. If what I mean by demonstrating humanity is to live authentically, own up to the less-glossy parts of life and accept my own fallibility, then I am case-and-point.

But demonstrating humanity is so much more than this.

Have a bit of fun

Communicating with authenticity means sharing the human moments and adding personality to the newsletters, social media posts and other content you produce. Go ahead—have a little fun! Share dogs pics, drop a pun, make fun of yourself for taking things too seriously and reveal bits and pieces of the wizard behind the curtain.

Bringing personality and lightness to your content makes your organization more relatable, and relatability is key to trustworthiness. If people like you, they’ll want to believe what you say.

The Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) consistently Tweets some of the most fun content of any organization out there. If you aren’t following them to find out how bad your commute will be, you should follow them for pure entertainment value.

Another account that I love to follow on any platform I can find them is USGS Volcanoes. They might not use the slapstick humor and creativity that WSDOT brings, but they’ve cultivated a distinctive expert voice that is neither pretentious nor too wonky. They regularly correct misinformation without sounding arrogant or defensive. And they tend to be deeply intrigued with the information they’re sharing, as if they really can’t wait to share the latest updates.

Granted, I am a big-time volcano nerd, so they’re speaking my language. But that’s part of the gig: I am among their target audience, and their posts truly resonate with me. This makes them hugely effective in getting out critical information in rapidly-changing, could-have-been-dangerous events like the Mauna Loa eruption last month. (Go ahead, geek out.)

Fess up to the shortcomings

Not to belabor the point about coming down with a cold, demonstrating humanity is helpful whenever you come up short—especially in cases where you’ve made a mistake.

As mentioned previously, mistakes happen! One of the great ways to pull through a humiliating typo or unintentional mis-speak is to share your embarrassment with your audience. Make fun of yourself. Use some of those not-word words like “Doh!” and throw in some emojis to convey your flattened ego.

Avoid defensiveness at all costs, but if the situation allows for it, feel free to toss out a weak justification like “apparently not enough coffee today” or “and this is why I can’t have nice things.” Like or laugh at posts that gently correct you. Be real.

And then move on. In the grand scheme of things, it’s seldom a big deal. Your audience might even come away feeling more like a community than they did before your gaff.

Show grace

Finally, the most important and meaningful way to demonstrate humanity? Show grace in times of hardship. I’ll spare you my tedious depiction of how this looks because this week brought one of the most authentically moving examples of showing grace ever. It illustrates the point far better than I can.

Monday Night Football between the Bills and Rams brought tragedy to TV screens across America. What followed was an outpouring of empathy, a sincere centering of human life, genuine concern expressed at a collective scale and broad unity around what is right and true: the value of Damar Hamlin’s life, health, family and friends over all else. This is how humanity is demonstrated through grace.

While thankfully few organizations will face that level of tragedy, none of us are spared the realities of our own mortality and the mortality of the clients, customers, employees, teammates, leaders, families, friends and neighbors around us. We all need a little grace, and grace given can have profound impacts. Never mind strengthening a brand—showing grace brings the power to change lives, to heal.

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