With some exceptions, management experts say it makes you look like an escapist who can’t close a deal
Prince Harry was nearly a commoner, but he might want to stop talking about it.
The 32-year-old revealed in a recent interview that he was so sick of life in the Court of St. James while in his 20s that he considered leaving the royal family. “‘I felt I wanted out but then decided to stay in and work out a role for myself,” the U.K.’s Mail on Sunday quotes Harry, who’s fifth-in-line to the British throne, as saying. Harry added that he stuck on in large part because he wanted to support his grandmother, the Queen, in performing royal duty.
Meghan Markle’s boyfriend is not the first bold-faced name to have openly contemplated an alternative future. When he was running against Vietnam War hero John McCain in the 2008 presidential elections, then-Sen. Barack Obama told “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos that he thought about joining the military as a young adult. French soccer coach Arsène Wenger is a regular target of derision by British tabloids for his regular allusions to world class stars he “almost” signed. You’ve also probably heard your fair share of “nearly” tales in the office.
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But if you’re prone to tell such stories, it might be wise to hold off. Indeed, no less a figure than the Queen of England has told Harry to tone down the “soul-baring.” “It comes from a place of wanting to show that you have choices and some control over outcomes,” says New York executive coach Eden Abrahams. “But if you do it on a regular basis, you’re sort of undermining yourself.”
Management experts say the danger of talking too much about how you “almost” did something is that you wind up sounding like a dreamer who can’t close the deal. “People care about what you do, not what you almost did,” says Katie Bennett, co-founder at Ama LA Vida, a coaching company. She notes that in corporate environments, such stories are often used as a precursor to blame someone or something else for you not being to achieve your goal. “Don’t use it as an excuse. Saying you almost did something is not going to fly well,” she says.
There’s one exception to this rule: you can recount an anecdote about a near-miss if you genuinely think there’s a lesson for the person you’re telling it to. Indeed, Abrahams recalls an acquaintance who turned down the chance to join Google at a time when the search giant was in its infancy because he didn’t think it was the right fit. “For him, telling the story becomes a lesson about not appreciating opportunities,” she says. “It’s telling more junior people to be open to possibilities, instead of pining and sighing about outcomes.”
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