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4 Common Scenarios Where Showing Your Authority Can Be a Disaster

In some circumstances, strongly demonstrating authority can be a double-edged sword. Rather than helping you build trust, showing off your authority can actually shatter trust (among other disastrous results, as you’ll see below).

Having the ability to switch gears — and knowing when that’s necessary — can help you skillfully maneuver challenging situations without coming across as tone deaf.

Doing so will help you build and maintain relationships and better understand people’s unique challenges, instead of alienating them and harming your own reputation in the process.

After all, who wants to become the type of authority that people rally against?

In tomorrow's post, +Yael Grauer will explore some scenarios which require a different skill set.

Stay tuned. 

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Very thought-provoking article on the proper use -- and misuse -- of authority. Good job, +Yael Grauer  - your examples will help us avoid the worst of these missteps.
Bragging away about my rigorous running schedule to my new college roommate, only to find out he's one of the top ultra-marathon the world. 
I struggle with the 2nd scenario with regard to teaching others.  I have always liked the "hold a little back and let them figure it out for themselves" model but I find it increasingly difficult to do in an online environment.  The jaded, "kids today" personality wants to blame it on lack of attention span or applied skills, but I know that I should look in the mirror and change my teaching style before I start blaming a student's inability to solve a problem on their own.  I like your classroom example, but how do you provide this guidance and personalized coaching when student and teacher are separated by electrons and mysterious ether?
hi, Shannon! Wow, that's definitely a tough one. Scenarios really vary, so it's hard to really say. But I think one thing you can do is accept approximations, and focus on what IS right about a 'wrong' answer, or how that used to be common thought, and so forth. Also directly stating that your approach is process-oriented and that you're interesting in seeing people's processes can help a lot, both in person and online.
Scenario #4 Where were you when I needed you. I learned this lesson too late. Basically the old adage "no one likes a know it all" proved true for me when a family debate went horribly wrong. In defense of myself, I was extra passionate about the topic because I'd kept quiet for too long.

Great advice on how to pull punches, pace oneself, adapt a beginner's mind, and remain service minded.
Oh believe me, I've learned these all the hard way, too! 
Good post and your scenarios are clear examples of what not to do. It's easy for some in authority to miss out on opportunities to simplify things and/or to just lend a hand.

On another issue, Yael, I believe the picture of the Hindenburg blowing up, with the loss of life, isn't an appropriate image to compare a copywriting or authority "disaster" to. It may get our attention, but just as you point out in your scenarios, there are times when something is over the top.
Not work safe in any way (I'll let you Google search it later), but this reminds me of the old Chapelle show sketches, "When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong." Maybe not quite as horrendous outcomes though :) Great article!
Great information Yael.  Knowing when and how to show authority is very important for trust building.

The "Scenario #4: In the midst of a debate" made me so much think about Dale Carnegie's book "How to win friends and influence people".  I highly recommend this book to people who struggle with that scenario.  

It teaches you great principles, such as "How to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment", and many others.

Personally, I try to most of the time let the person I speak with tell me the most about him, so the focus is on him.  People usually like to talk about them and they enjoy the company or service of someone who truly listens, is aware of their needs and do their best to help them.
Great post. Listen first, act second.

If you're writing content for a business, it's really important to avoid jargon. You may feel it conveys knowledge and expertise but it's actually off-putting.

Similarly, it's always better to talk about the benefits you offer a customer and not all about you and your product's great features.
There's a big difference between acting/being authoritative and acting/being authoritarian. The goal is to be perceived an accurate and reliable source of information, not an overly confident bully. 
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