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Why You Have To Leave People Out

Recognising who your work is aimed at means acknowledging that it isn’t for everyone.

Understanding who it is not for helps you even more because it allows you to fine-tune your message, ensuring it carries greater meaning to those you’re looking to attract.

When you’re looking at the long term, the idea of courting popularity and making it a numbers game is tempting but, in order to matter to “your” people, you have to leave others out. This is where the idea of generous exclusion comes into play.

Generous Exclusion. What Is It?

Priya Parker’s book, The Art Of Gathering talks about the concept of generous exclusion.  It explains how you can use it to focus your efforts and demonstrates that the old saying “the more, the merrier”, is not necessarily true.

Parker highlights how having “everyone” as your audience and inviting everyone to say, an event, communicates the fact that you don’t really understand what you’re about. She goes as far as to say that it’s a strategy that can mean any connections to your audience stay at a superficial level.  Learning to close the doors and acknowledge that you’re not for everyone can in fact, help you tune into the people who are the best fit for you.

Being more specific about your mission and your audience allows deeper connections to flourish. Parker points out, “When I talk about generous exclusion, I am speaking of ways of bounding a gathering that allows diversity in it to be heightened and sharpened, rather than diluted in a hodgepodge of people.”  

From My Side

Without calling it ‘generous exclusion’, this is something Jay Acunzo commented on at the October YATM Online Offline “What if I made something better or more personal, or more emotionally deep for the people, that I’m speaking to? I’m truly making something that matters to them.” Read this article on make your work matter.

I’ve delivered events for organisations where the audience has been more of a catch-all ‘everyone’. In February 2019, I ran a series of workshops that people walked out of (you can read the full story here). 

Reflecting on it back in 2019, I wrote that I was aware, “there was no connection or even passing acquaintance prior to the workshops, and this made it difficult. It created a sense of distance straight away.

For instance, some of the people wanted to hear about converting a subscriber to purchase in the shortest time possible (You Are The Media is not about that), others wanted to know more about the tactical side and how channels such as LinkedIn work.”

The disconnect came through me not being clear on who it wasn’t for. Being vague and trying to include everyone became my undoing. 

Setting out to please everyone dilutes who you are. As Priya Parker says, “If everyone is family, no one is family, Telling people why it is not for them is just as important as telling others why it’s for them.” 

I recognise now that it’s just as important to put people off, as it is to want to pull people in.

What Do We Need To Think About?

Generous exclusion can feel a little uncomfortable but all it means is being ok with your work not being intended for everyone. In this way you’re being generous to the people who are right for you, deepening your connection with them and ensuring you do more of the work you want, and need, to do.

That said, we all want to be good hosts. Here are some ideas on how to find the clarity to open the door to those you want on your side and keep it closed to those who aren’t a good fit for you. They apply to all sorts of situations, from creating an event, through to having an angle on the content you produce.

Have a reason. 

Everything starts with being focused and strategic on what you’re doing. Parker identifies the importance of knowing, “why you’re gathering and doing your participants the honor of being gathered for a reason.” It comes back to knowing. What is the purpose and what are we trying to achieve? 

Find your focus. 

If you don’t speak up, who will? If your message is centred on ‘business’ then your work becomes generic. You have to find the space you want to occupy. For instance, if the giant rock is ‘business,’ then you could choose to intentionally chip away at the complacency within your industry, the excess you see around you or the wastefulness within your marketplace.

By shunning the popular, “well-trodden” topics, you’re creating a stronger attachment to those who share your concerns. It’s far better to create from the heart rather than mimicking what the industry or status quo expects and or has been used to seeing for generations.

Expand your perspective.

Go beyond the parameters of your business and its activities, and look at the bigger picture, your community or a cause you’re interested in, for instance. This helps your work resonate and introduces a human element to it, demonstrating how you’re in tune with what’s going on in the big wide world.

Impact happens when the right people take action. 

This is when people decide to subscribe, attend, buy or recommend you. You’re not going to get this from everyone you meet. The longer, the ‘right’ people feel a part of what you’re doing, the easier their decision to commit to you and share your work and mission, becomes.

Let’s Round-Up

No business can afford to target everyone. To do work that matters, you have to be prepared to leave people out. 

In short, it pays not to be the overly nice person who invites everyone to their party.

The beauty of building your own space means you can choose who comes into the room with you. Priya Parker says, “You will have begun to gather with purpose when you learn to exclude with purpose. When you learn to close doors.”

Putting your focus, love and attention on the audience that you care about, the audience that cares what you have to say, gives you the opportunity to create a more meaningful body of work.


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