Who the hell are you?

Hmm… it’s a good question. To be honest I’m not really sure who I am sometimes; are you? You see my personality keeps changing according to who I’m talking to, or according to my differing circumstances. Does that ever happen to you, or am I just a bit weird? Don’t answer that!

I’ve been absorbed recently by Daniel Goleman’s book Focus:The Hidden Driver of Excellence, so far the book’s much better than the awful title. Basically it’s about how we pay attention to what’s going on around us. Attention divides into two types he says, directed attention when we concentrate on something and undirected thought – when we’re reflecting on something, or ruminating, or just plain old day-dreaming – which surprisingly isn’t as unproductive as you might believe. It’s when we’re in that switched-off state that creative ideas and inspiring thoughts spontaneously pop into our heads.

The bit that’s grabbed my attention so far is his observations about how we see ourselves. The way we form impressions of each other is a vital component of the presentation skills courses I’ve been running for the last twenty years. You have to understand how your audience sees you to know how to connect and influence them. But how do we know who we are? How do others see us? Is looking in the mirror sufficient?

According to social scientists the looking glass self is how we imagine others see us. We unconsciously employ others as a way to see ourselves – but observing how they respond and reflect us; the recursive belief of “I am what you think I am” goes round and round. You smile: I smile. More significantly there’s a view from psychologists (Snyder 1985) that we become the people we’re treated as. Treat me like a fool and I’ll become one. Behave submissively and I’ll turn into a monster.

Lack of self awareness was all too apparent when I was running a course recently. Try as I might I couldn’t get one young woman to speak with authority and conviction. She shied away from it. She believed she would be seen as a harridan; hectoring her audience. In reality she was coming across as unassertive, conciliatory and bland. There was no likelihood of her influencing her audience that way.

Do you wonder what others make of you? Would you like to have a better and clearer knowledge of the impressions others form of you and how you can influence them? Then enrol on the next Successful Speaking Skills workshop being held in Hatton Garden London EC1 – it’s on Friday December 6th. Click here for all the details: http://www.voiceworkslondon.com/public-courses/

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