Are You Who They Think You Are?
Have you ever met someone who was totally different than you thought they’d be? Maybe you’d known them in a past-life, like back in high school, many, many moons ago. Maybe you’d known them in a different context, like you had worked together and now you’re seeing them socially for the first time. Maybe you just followed them on social media and had never really met for real. But somehow, before you really got to know this person, you had a picture in your mind of who you thought they were and what they were like, and when you actually spend time with them, the two realities don’t jive. Ever happen to you before?
It happened to me recently and it was very…disturbing. It made me question my own instincts about people as the person-I-got-to-know and the person-I thought-that-was were so drastically different that it was a very jarring experience. And that got me thinking about how others might experience me. Do they ever think of me one way or assume that I’m a certain way and then find themselves totally shocked when they meet the real-in-the-flesh-Kimberly? Am I the person they thought I’d be?
Because we make assumptions about people. We decide about them. Maybe we’re more wrong than we realize.
Recently, I met a friend for lunch and she had been chatting with a gentleman next to her and had shared with him that I lived in Pelham. When I showed up, he said knowingly, “Pelham. I knew a guy from Pelham. He’s not around anymore – he passed away. But Pelham…you’re one of those kind of people.” I was a little confused, to be honest. What did he think Pelham was like? What did he assume I was like? He’s assuming that I’m like some dead-guy I’ve never met because I live in the same town?
But that’s what we do, we make assumptions.
My recent experience with the person-I thought-that-was-one-way but turned out to be quite another has really made me think. How can we avoid deciding about people? Not assuming anything one way or the other? I don’t know if that’s possible or if we’re just wired to do this and can’t avoid it, but I want to bring more mindfulness to it.
And, like in everything, there are some things that we can’t control and some things we can. I can control how congruent I am with my actions that lead others to decide about me. Because if people are going to make assumptions about me, I want to give them as much evidence to go on as I can, to help them to see what is real. I don’t want to profess one thing and show up as someone totally different. I don’t want to teach one thing and do the opposite. I don’t want to expect something from others that I’m not willing to do myself. I want to bring mindfulness that my actions are in alignment with my words, with the quotes and quips and blogs that I put out in social media, and with the choices I make.
Knowing full well that assumptions will be made.
Now of course from an authentic leadership perspective, this disconnect can be devastating. Trust, your ability to connect, and have a meaningful impact, all go down the tubes when people are holding you at arm’s length. Nobody wants to follow too closely or give their best to someone whose person and agenda are questionable.
I think this mindfulness begins with us. Are you mindful about mixed messages you may be sending? Are you who you show you are? Where are the incongruencies? I guess we don’t know what we don’t know, but it’s worth thinking about.
Because I know one thing for sure, I don’t want people to be disappointed when they meet the real me. Do you?
©OnStage Leadership, 2015
Upcoming sessions of OnStage Leadership: Dallas: April 16th (Full); We will be offering open-enrollment sessions in Dallas and NYC again in the fall of 2015, please notify us if interested in participating or being put on the wait-list.
Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop. Click here to read what people are saying! If you’re interested in more information, or in having Kimberly come speak to your group on topics around Authentic Leadership, Influence, Presence, Engagement, Purpose in the workplace, or Presentation Skills we’d love to hear from you!