Last week I wrote an article that addressed how to separate helpful from unhelpful advice during unprecedented circumstances. This week I’d like to address a category of content that I am finding helpful.

While it’s hard to find resources that can offer actionable advice right now, what has been helpful to me is content that makes an emotional connection. For example, the NYTimes story My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore?, a raw reveal of a restaurant owner’s current struggles, or this widely shared Harvard Business Review article that gives a name to the main emotion in the NYTimes article and the one we’re all experiencing: grief.

Both of these articles let the reader know that they’re not alone in their experience. By walking through a specific example or sharing an interpretation of general experiences, they offer the reader the relief that they haven’t done something wrong and that their negative emotions are warranted.

You can apply this approach to your own work with customers. When talking to your customers, particularly those that you know well, don’t feel pressured to act like everything is fine at your place of employment or at home. While you don’t want to reveal anything confidential or focus the conversation on yourself, it’s okay to acknowledge that you (and perhaps your company) are also struggling.

For example, you could share that you’re seeing more sales opportunities being paused. Or you could mention that you’re feeling exhausted and having trouble concentrating at work. These examples may be too intimate for a new customer but they’re appropriate if you have a strong relationship with an existing customer.    

Revealing your own vulnerabilities, within appropriate limits, can help to build trust with your customers. A global pandemic is the most appropriate time to share them. If you don’t, you risk being perceived as inauthentic, which will reduce your customers' trust in you.

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