This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

Last week I focused on one of the greatest opportunities for us all to improve our trustworthiness: getting off our “S” (self-orientation). I wrote about Level 1 troubleshooting, which zeros in on the fundamentals (things like being curious, generous, and truly committed to doing right by them). This week we go deeper with Level 2 to deal with the sneaky parts.

Keeping our “S” in check means we have to get really smart about it. The Level 2 question is whether or not you’re focused on your needs, or on theirs—and not just in a surface-level kind of way.

Here are three examples of how Big “S” might be creeping into your everyday interactions with people (chosen specifically because these are the ones I struggle with the most):

Level 2 Big “S” Level 2 Little “S”
  • You focus on your need to be liked, so you avoid confrontation—sometimes or always
  • You focus on their need to have all the data for good decisions, so you’re consistently willing to speak a hard truth, even when it feels awkward to do it
  • You focus on your need to look smart, so you talk a lot or summon Death by PowerPoint
  • You focus on their need to be heard, so you listen without distraction or unnecessary props, even when it’s uncomfortable to be silent for what feels like a long time
  • You focus on your need to be the hero, so you subtly (or not so subtly) compete for attention
  • You focus on their need to feel confident, so you let them take the credit for successes, and check your ego at the door

[Tweet “Why self-orientation (yours) can be sneaky and draw down on #trust #getreal”]Make no mistake, understanding Level 2 Big “S” (the sneaky kind) requires a whole lotta self-awareness. It rears its ugly head most often when we feel some sort of fear—fear of looking bad, fear of rejection, fear of loss. For the record, all of these fears fall into the category of perfectly normal.

Doing something about Level 2 Big “S” takes a real commitment to self-management. It’s a lifelong journey for me. What makes a difference for us all is having the ego strength to see it, acknowledge it, to get off your “S,” and move on.

After all, obsessing about Big “S” is just more … Big “S.”

Make It Real

This week, examine your “S” from a Level 2 perspective. Observe your tendencies in a variety of interactions. What do you notice triggers you into Big “S” behaviors?

Learn More


Read more about the psychology of self-orientation, from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates, or brush up on other-focused marketing and BD tips in Chapter 11 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

The following two tabs change content below.

Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).