In the all-seeing, ever-connected social climate of today, we spend so much time honing in on our online personalities and crafting profiles that best represent what we want people to think about us.. But of course, the question remains: How do other people in your life really perceive you? Do they see you as the kind, smart, clever, loving, fun person you are, or at least hope to be? Is it possible that they have picked up on qualities you don’t even realize you have?
A Washington University study investigated that very question with 165 volunteers in effort to determine who is the better judge of our personalities – ourselves or others. Findings concluded that while individuals are clued into their general fears and anxieties, other people are often better judges of personality and behaviors.
What that means is this: you have an incredible opportunity to learn and understand a huge part of your life by doing your own research with a pool of qualified volunteers who care about you: your friends.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF ME?
Think about your friends. Are there ones whose character traits you lovingly accept as part of their personalities? Do you ever confide in one friend about the particularities of a mutual acquaintance? Here’s a fact: if you’re talking about them, they are talking about you. People who know and spend a lot of time with you have all sorts of insights and opinions about you that you may be yet unaware of. We’re especially blind to the deeper issues that hold us back from getting healthy, having a happy love life, or going for the promotion at work. But chances are, if you’ve got quirks to work out, your friends have already noticed. Asking for their observations and opinions won’t just improve our relationships, it might even unlock our future successes and avert some failures.
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AHEM, I HAVE SOMETHING TO ASK YOU…
It’s a scary thing! How do you approach someone with such a loaded question? First, before popping the question, prepare yourself by making a list of all the worst things you might possibly hear. Write it down and be honest – seeing it on paper will give you a chance to face those fears yourself so you won’t be blindsided in the real conversation. Because, in all honesty, who do you think is really your most critical critic?
You, of course. Fine, and your (or my) step-grandmother (Hi, Hilda, RIP).
NEXT, DECIDE WHOM TO ASK.
The only thing that might spook us more than hearing someone’s honest opinion is having to give OUR honest opinion of them. People who love you won’t want to hurt your feelings, and they might fear that you’ll get defensive or angry with them. Ask yourself: What do you want out of the conversation and what are you willing to learn about yourself? Only ask people you trust and with whom you feel safe. Let them know that they won’t “get in trouble” by telling you the truth, even if it’s negative, because you want to learn and grow from the exercise. [But you have to mean it!] And lastly, assure them that you’re grateful for the honesty and the opportunity to share such intimate information with a friend. [But, again, you have to mean it.]
HOW TO HAVE THE CONVERSATION:
Always ask if it’s a good time to speak about something that’s important to you, and check their space for any distractions. Have this conversation over coffee, not at a loud party. Explain your motives and give them the clearance to be truthful. Some questions could be:
- Is there anything about me you wish I would change?
- Are there traits of mine that make you uncomfortable?
- Do I owe you an apology for anything in the past?
- Have I ever hurt your feelings?
- Do I owe you an apology for anything?
- Is there something you wish I would do more that I do not do?
Don’t forget to thank your friend for their willingness to engage with you on this level. You have a choice as to whether to make any changes to your behavior based on the information and opinions you receive in your conversations. But at the very least, you might want to keep what you heard in mind as you negotiate tricky spots in relationships or other life challenges and consider whether altering how you’re perceived might help life go more smoothly for you.
You coming? Hurry. There’s no time like the presence.
P.S.: Not sure what to do with all of this new, honest information? Join me and one of my nearest and dearest, Elena Brower, author of Art of Attention and Practice You, for a Facebook Live event March 7th at 3 ET entitled Traits, Trails, and Treasures of Your Family Tree on Elena’s Facebook channel. We’re going to have a blast talking about emotional DNA, the goody bag we all (and we mean ALL) were born with, and what to do about it.