A close second to doing work that matters is how we tell our story about what we do. Perspective is everything to an audience. How are you portraying yourself to other people? This question is just as important as any other consideration when thinking about the work you do.
A concrete example can be found when there’s a matchup between a stronger opponent and a weaker one. On average, we tend to favour the one least likely to win; that is, the underdog. As a result, many people (such as politicians), position themselves as underdogs in order to get an advantage. This happens whether or not the person is actually an underdog. The key here is that they are perceived as underdogs, which makes all the difference.
This also happens in the upper echelons of sports. As a way to relieve the pressure of performing, the athletes play their expertise down, more comfortable instead – mentally – with being the underdog. By doing this, it allows the athletes to both tap in on the crowd’s energy (due to being an underdog), as well stay cool-headed so as not to crack under pressure.
But is this kind of “skewed” perception unethical or misleading?
As with most things in life, it depends. On the one hand, purposefully fabricating a story that is false is dishonest and should not be done. However, you can and should think about how you deliver your message to your audience. You needn’t lie in order to tell your message in a compelling, story-like way. I’m not advertising for making your story more grand than it actually is. Instead, I’m advocating for you to think about how your message is delivered. As such, you can be better poised to communicate with your audience in a way that is more emotionally connecting than just going about it in a random manner.
Stories matter to people. Connect your message to them, and you’ll be doing better than everyone else who doesn’t even think about it.