Early in my career, I was just myself. I worked hard, used dry humor, and did my best. And as I went along, I was taught how to “be professional.” If someone asks how you are, you say, “Fine, thank you. How are you?” You dress like everyone else. You talk like everyone else. You write professional letters like everyone else. Being professional means that you were predictable and boring. I knew I was smart and professional, and so I played the game and fell in line with everyone else, only rarely bucking the system.
A couple of years ago, I did some reading from authors who wrote on what I initially thought would be unrelated topics – Patrick Lencioni (Getting Naked: A Business Fable), Seth Godin (Linchpin, Tribes), and Brene Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection).
My ultimate takeaway from every one of these books was that successful and happy people show others who they are.
People are emotional beings, and even the least intuitive among us makes decisions based on what kind of connection they feel to someone else. That means that if someone doesn’t feel connected to you, they probably don’t trust you, and you aren’t going to make a friend… or a sale. It’s very lonely business to hide who you are.
On the other hand, if you show people who you are and they get to see the real you, one of two things will happen. Either they will think, “Wow – I can relate to that person!” and you’ll have begun forging the bonds of a new relationship (work or personal), or they will think, “Huh – not my cup of tea,” and move on. Frankly, you’ve won either way.
Many people worry that by taking this risk that other people aren’t going to like you. But that’s ok. If they don’t like you, you probably wouldn’t like them much either, and now you’re opening up space in your life for more beneficial experiences. And if you aren’t showing them the real you, you’re never really going to know if they like you or not anyway.
The whole point is to strip off the layers, get naked (figuratively, of course), and make real bonds with real people. When you do that, you begin operating on a completely different level. You forge relationships with people you trust and admire (and they with you). Your daily life experience becomes richer and deeper, and you become happier and more fulfilled.
I was at an accounting conference roundtable a year or two ago where everyone was discussing marketing and social media. One of the main questions was how to separate your “work” persona from your “personal” persona in social media. My argument is that there’s only one you, so that’s what you should show them. Don’t worry about slipping in personal anecdotes about your kids into your tweets. It gives people insight into who you are and what you care about. On the other hand, don’t make it *all* about your kids since work is important to you too. Just be yourself, and your tribe will come to you.
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