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Should Experts 'Walk Their Talk'?

In addition to being a consultant, trainer, and author, I am, by trade, a professional hypnotherapist. As a person who regularly helps people overcome problematic habits like overeating, smoking, stage fright, etc., it is only natural for questions of personal congruence to come up. After all, it seems only logical that if a person claims to be an expert at solving a particular problem, then they shouldn't suffer from that problem themselves, right?

For example, I once attended a training where a hypnotherapy instructor who was grossly overweight discussed how to perform weight loss sessions with clients. He casually excused his own obesity by remarking that it did not matter, since, "Weight loss is the client's goal, not my own".

Was he correct? Can we really effectively help people if we, ourselves, are walking billboards for the very problems our clients expect us to cure?

Some people have very strong opinions on this subject, and to be quite honest, I think a lot of those opinions are just self-serving and politically motivated. My own thoughts, however, are a little mixed . . .

Obviously, a client is much more likely to trust us if they see that we have our own act together and are really 'walking our talk'. However, the truth is the truth--no matter what the source--and for that reason it is certainly possible for a person who is not exemplary to give perfectly valid advice to someone on how they can achieve exemplary results.

Just look at all the Olympic and professional athletic coaches around the world; few of them could perform a tenth of what they expect from those they coach. And yet, for those they work with, their advice is gospel and no one would ever expect them to be in anywhere near the same shape, or to do the same things, that they demand from their athletes. They are judged on the merits of their expertise alone.

Still, as a professional, I believe the real answer to the question, "Should experts walk their talk?" is that, yes, they should--just maybe not for the reasons that most people think.

Looking totally fit and trim if you help people with weight loss is certainly going to increase trust levels in potential clients. That, of course, may help you in providing more effective therapy.

Being fabulously wealthy if you sell financial planning and investment services is certainly going to give you the appearance of credibility in the eyes of your potential clients, and perhaps because of that, they will heed your advice that much more.

No doubt at all--'walking your talk' is beneficial, and is certainly great for marketing!

But, in reality, in may not be good for much more than that.

Just because you don't suffer from the same challenges as your clients, doesn't necessarily equate with you being the best and most qualified person to help them. And, although you may be excellent at helping people achieve goals in certain areas, that type of achievement and those particular goals may not necessarily be your own.

And hey, that's perfectly fine--as long as your potential clients and the public as a whole have the consciousness and maturity to understand the fullness of this reality.

Personally, I'm totally fine with a little professional incongruence. I think that as human beings, we probably all indulge in it a little bit and deserve the grace of being allowed to walk our own slightly-wavy line in life. As Bill Murray once said, "Sometimes you have to go a little crazy in order to keep from going a lot crazy."

However, I still say that, wherever possible, we should walk our talk, not for the purposes of marketing, not for public appearances, not out of fear of exposure, not even to help our clients, but simply because we should be as kind, as caring, and respectful of ourselves and our own needs as we are toward those we work so hard to help.

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