How to Be Yourself in Unknown Situations

Flickr credit Fotologic

I was recently doing some side work at an auction where people were buying homes from the bank at a fraction of the value. I found out that morning that I would have two roles that day: Registration and Signer. For Registration I was to sign people in and make sure they had specific items (pre-qualification letter, $5,000 cashiers check, and myriad of other items). If I messed up and let them through without having those items, it would come back on me. As a Signer I was to work on behalf of the Escrow company and go through the contract with the people who just bought the homes. It was a 30 page contract, which needed a ton of signatures and initials. I even had to sign my name in two places within the contract! I had never done either of these jobs before. Needless to say I was nervous.

Throughout the day I noticed that I was becoming less myself. At times I would put on a front that I knew more than I actually did, I pretended I was more confident than I actually was, and smiled more than I was comfortable with. I was sitting there with people who just bid on houses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I didn’t want them knowing that I didn’t know what I was doing! However, after realizing that I wasn’t being myself, it started to really get to me, and so I started to do certain things that brought me back to myself, and the 4 steps below encompass that exact process.

1) Become aware of what you’re doing and saying, and that it is not authentic

If we don’t know that we’re not being ourselves, then we can’t really change it. So try to catch yourself if you can. It often comes in a change of the voice (deeper/higher), a forced smile, agreeing with things that you don’t normally agree with, laughing at jokes that aren’t funny, acting confident, exaggerating stories, and pretending to know things that you don’t actually know. In other words, you are being inauthentic. It’s all good, we do it all the time as humans. We try to adapt the best way we can. Unfortunately, in doing so we lose ourselves along the way.

2) Stop being inauthentic

I know it seems obvious, but it’s not always easy to do…especially right in the middle of the moment when we catch ourselves. If you’re laughing at someone’s joke and realize that you don’t really think it’s funny, you probably won’t just stop laughing all of a sudden and tell the guy that it wasn’t funny. You can, however, choose to only laugh if the person is funny from that moment on. If you’ve been adding a little spice to your stories, you can choose to not do so the next time you tell a story. If you’ve been forcing a smile, stop. That doesn’t mean you have to stop smiling, just have the smile be sincere.

3) Start being authentic

Once you stop being inauthentic, you can now start being authentic. In that moment that we catch ourselves in our inauthenticity we have a choice – to continue to be inauthentic or to start being authentic. In the last paragraph I said that it would be odd if you stopped laughing all of a sudden and told the guy he wasn’t funny. What you could do instead, though, is politely excuse yourself from the conversation. If you’re telling a story and exaggerating, you could stop at that moment and own up to your exaggeration by saying, “well, that last part was a bit of an exaggeration, it was more like (blank)”. People love the truth, so don’t worry about looking bad. Once you realize that you’re being inauthentic, stop, then start being authentic from that moment on.

4) Become present with yourself

Alright Jeff, what does that even mean?! What I mean is do some things that bring you back to reality. Put your hands on your stomach and take 5 deep breaths (and close your eyes if you can). This allows you to become physically present. Becoming physically present allows you to get your roots back and brings you down from the cloud that you were in. You may feel the urge to beat yourself up about it. You may think “why was I pretending to know about that? They probably knew I was full of it the whole time. Why do I always do that?!” Try to refrain from this type of negative thinking because it takes you right out of being present and puts you back into the clouds. Just acknowledge that it happened and choose to be authentic from then on.

What are some other things that you do when you realize you’re not being yourself in certain situations?

*Also, if you are ALWAYS yourself in every situation, please post a comment and let us know your secret sauce!

  • Lucifer

    Always being true to oneself will generally get you by in social circles but in business you should be presenting your knowledge in the areas you are comfortable with and always be aware that “finding the answer” to any question is and always will be a priority to the people you’re working with, whether customers or business associates.

    So, sometimes authenticity must be fragmented and presented in a manner that provides honest and truthful answers. Hence, I might say sometimes you must be a good actor. Films illustrate this point. For the most films are nothing more than fiction, yet mostly entertaining if the “ACTORS” come across honest and sincere in their performance. Its a slippery slope in the normal business world but think about it. I will not do business or use the clerk that stammers and doesn’t have any confidence and knows his stuff compared to someone that acts with confidence, honesty and sincere in helping me find the answers. Where do you stand? Its amazing how people will offer themselves just by asking for help. If ever I could improve business stature I would always ask for help. People appreciate the honesty that goes with admitting in front of them you need help. Never be afraid to ask for help. Sincerly, honestly, with positive action for results. Even if it happens not to be the answer wanted. It works!!

    • Jeff Friend

      There is definitely a lot to be said for someone who isn’t too proud to ask for help. It’s how we learn and grow

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