You just started a job with a new company, you just signed up for a class with people you never met before, you moved to a new neighborhood, you are standing at the new CEO’s cocktail party and you don’t recognize a soul.
No one knows about your experiences, your talents, all the things that make you unique. You feel like you need to establish yourself, present your “credentials”, let people know you “belong” and are “entitled” to be part of the team.
You might tend to hang back, wait for people to discover your gifts. When no one tries to draw them out, you could end up feeling overlooked, unappreciated. You may withdraw and come to some negative conclusions about what these people think of you. In this case, the group never gets to know you and everyone loses.
And then some people go too far in the other direction.
I just got back from a two-day gathering with a group of twenty writers and experts from around the country. Everyone was an authority in his or her field. The expertise was amazing and varied. Ron is a physician who has developed an astounding new approach to stuttering. Jill has written a book about dying, explaining how she can communicate with her father who passed away. Michael is a genius in multi-level marketing, and Sharon is a holistic physician who has been a godsend to chronic disease sufferers.
Our purpose was to broaden the impact of the work we are each doing. The setting was informal, the beautiful Santa Barbara home of Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles and the phenomenally successful Chicken Soup for the Soul series; Patty Aubrey the brilliant CEO of his company; and Steve Harrison, CEO of Bradley Communications, advisors to authors and experts.
For 30 minutes we each got to sit in the “hot seat” and present ourselves and our projects to the group. A lot of us had to be reminded not to spend all our time talking about what we do but to summarize and then ask questions so we could get the expert advice we’d signed up for.
Half-way through the rotation, Charles, took the seat. He started his story by letting us know he was an engineer with degrees from MIT and Cal Tech and then he proceeded to tell the rest of his story. And he told. And he told. And he told. Even with Jack’s gentle prompting, he couldn’t help laying out his experiences to show us he was smart, adventurous, passionate, sophisticated, caring and a real expert in his field. Poor Charles used up all but five minutes of his time.
At the end, Jack asked him why he had chosen to use his time that way. I wanted people to understand who I am,he told us. But in the first two-minute introduction, we all knew he was an expert of the highest order. We didn’t need more proof.
So why had Charles gone on and on and on?
Like most of us, Charles wanted to be respected and taken seriously. He wanted us to like him. That kernel of insecurity that keeps us talking about ourselves, and talking, and talking . . . is just our Triple J (for more on the Triple J and how to manage it click here) pushing us to tell, tell and tell in hopes that we will be accepted, revered, liked. But what happens might be the reverse of what we really want.
So when you are in a new awkward situation what do you do?????
Here are some quick tips to help you feel more relaxed, get the acceptance (and respect) you are looking for and put the Triple J to rest:
- Too Much Too Fast=TMI. When someone you barely know tells you how they were just at the White House, rang the opening bell of the NYSE, were on Jon Stewart and got featured in an article in the New York Times it’s waaay too much, too fast. It’s a turn-off. Let the information about yourself out in bite sized pieces, it’s okay to leave a little mystery!
- Break Your Habit – If you are someone who tends to talk first, experiment with what it’s like to wait to be asked a question before bursting forth. Try to see how many questions you can ask the other person. Most people love talking about themselves. They also love to give advice, so seek it. Let them know that you see they have something to give. Offer sincere complimentary comments, most people enjoy being appreciated. If you tend to wait for others to seek you out, try extending yourself. Be curious and interested. When you ask others about themselves, they will ask about you, so tell them. Don’t make them beg.
- Remember your agenda. Why did you come to this new situation in the first place? We can get way off track trying to strut our stuff when really have a specific goal. Charles came to get advice on how he could get his expertise out into the wider world. His Triple J made him so worried about what we thought of him, that he wasn’t able to get what he signed up for – expert advice. So stick by yourself and make sure you get what you need!
Then they’ll see the real you and isn’t that what all of us deeply long for?
Tell me about a new situation you have encountered: blunders you (or others) made.
What put you at ease?
Tell us everything . . .
Until next Tuesday. Yippee!