Be Who You Really Are
By Brad Swift
Like it or not we live in a world filled with other people, approximately 6,068,210,060 at latest count. And to a large degree the room we have to be ourselves depends on how the people around us relate to us. Not infrequently our perception of ourselves may not match with their perception. When the mismatch is significant, it can lead to discord and disharmony.
For example, if our perception of ourselves is that we are a loving, caring and compassionate person but if those around us perceive us to be a ruthless, heartless snob, then the room we have to be loving and caring is diminished. In other words we can't be who we really are — who we're committed to being.
So to begin the process of expanding the room we have to be ourselves, it's very useful to find out how we occur for the people around us. Of course this isn't easy because many times people are reluctant to tell us the truth even when we ask for it. They may be afraid of hurting our feelings, or concerned about the repercussions. Or perhaps they learned from childhood, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." (This is what we Southerners refer to as "Southern nice.")
Here are some guiding principles in initiating conversations to find out how you occur to others.
- What's the point? It's helpful to start by getting clear on the purpose or intention of the conversation you are about to have. You're not trying to discover who you really are but instead how your occur for others. This is an important distinction to keep in mind. In other words, you are not looking for the capital "T" type of truth, but the person's truth, with a small "t."
- Contextualize the conversation. As you start the conversation, be sure to give the person a clear idea of what you are doing and why. You might give them a little background as to what led up to your wanting to ask them their true perception of you.
- Create trust and assure the person. Since you want the person to have the freedom to tell you their truth, you want to create the room for them to be able to do so. You can do this by ensuring them that you won't take offense by anything they say, nor will you use it against them in the future.
The conversation might go something like this: "I really want you to have the room to tell me the truth as you perceive it. I promise that whatever you say won't offend me, nor will I allow it to hurt me. You can also count on me to not use it against you in the future or let it interfere with our relationship. It's really important that you tell me the way it is for you."
- Request a balanced response. It will be easier for the person to tell you their truth if you ask for a balanced response. Ask them to tell you what they think works about you; what they feel are your strong suits. Then ask them to share what doesn't work about you, your weak suits.
- Listen openly and with a commitment to hear what the person says. One of the ways to listen openly is to listen as though they're not really talking about you, but simply talking about somebody else that's like you. In a very real sense, they are. They're talking about how you occur for them, not necessarily who you really are. Staying unattached in this way will make it easier for you to hear what they say; to contribute to your quest to be who you really are.
- Use curiosity to explore deeper. If the person shares something that resonates with you or reveals something about you that you didn't know about yourself, you can use curiosity to dig deeper. Say something like this: "That's interesting. I'm curious about what you just said. Tell me more."
- Authentically acknowledge the person. At the end of the conversation, thank the person for their forthrightness and honesty. If you feel they're in anyway nervous that they may have been too straight with you, reassure them once more.
- Don't get stuck with anything. Try on everything that the person said to see what fits for you and what is useful. Once you begin trying it on, if parts don't fit, let them go. If you hear similar input from more than one source, pay attention to it, even if it didn't seem to fit the first time.
Insight + Action = Growth and Development
Dr. W. Bradford Swift is Founder of the Life On Purpose Institute, and author of Life On Purpose: 6 Passages to an Inspired Life. The Institute's vision is: a world on purpose, with people living lives of purposeful, passionate and playful service, of mindful abundance balanced with simplicity, and spiritual serenity.
The Institute's Life On Purpose - Home Study Course is a proven, systematic, spiritually based and practical process that helps you clarify your life purpose. Furthermore, this home study course provides the tools for you to design your life to be a true and authentic reflection of that purpose. So then you can get on with the joy of living according to your life purpose! This is our top recommendation for individuals wanting to live a truly fulfilled life.