"I’m One Person With Some, But Another With Others"
How Can I Just Be Me, Consistently?
Some people are just who they are. You know the ones—those who pretty much say what they’re thinking and don’t seem to change to accommodate different people or places. Sometimes these types can be refreshing because of their raw authenticity; other times they can be worrisome or even obnoxious. Those are probably far fewer than you’d have guessed.
By nature, we are all more comfortable with those we are familiar. We feel safe to a considerable degree, so we are not quite so on edge or hyper-aware of what we say or do. We let our guards down and feel free to just be. In all actuality, everyone self-checks and adjusts to circumstances. We choose to behave according to our surroundings. For example, how you conduct yourself during a church service is likely different from how you act a dinner party. But most people would agree they are the same persons, merely conforming to different settings.
Not all people feel at ease in the company of strangers—whether just in passing or in a situation that lends itself more to communicate. People are different, thus having different personalities and varying degrees of self-esteem and self-awareness. Some are people-persons who never meet strangers; others are not so comfortable due to shyness, fear, or other reasons. If you are one of the latter types but you’d like to come out of your comfort zone and work to become more comfortable and genuine with new acquaintances, you’ll want to keep reading.
Before we start implementing different actions, take some personal inventory first, by asking some of the following questions. Besides the obvious difference between interfacing with strangers than with acquaintances, what are some things that make you feel like a different person between two such groups? What are the differences in your thoughts, behaviors, mannerisms among the two types of people? Are you concerned about offending new people, about them not responding as you hope or expect? If you truly want to put more effort into being a more consistent person interacting with different people, it’s important to keep several things in mind.
Not only are all people different, but regarding strangers, you have almost no idea what their states of mind may be or what circumstances they're in or from which they may come. Yes, there is a vulnerability that comes with engaging with those unfamiliar to us, but more often than not, with a few tips and suggested guidelines, you’ll find you’ll find those experiences mostly positive. By simply having brief, pleasant interactions with unfamiliar people, you are (or will be) growing in self-confidence and self-esteem. Let’s start simple and small.
When you make eye contact with someone walking in the opposite direction on a sidewalk or in a grocery aisle, do you quickly look away; give a smile; or do you look away with a scowl—if only out of frustration with yourself? If you don't generally offer a small smile, give it a try. Hardly anyone responds negatively to a pleasant gesture. This mere acknowledgment can make a big impact on how others perceive you and how you perceive others.
If reading people or gaging a sense of their moods or accessibility is completely foreign to you, it doesn’t have to be. Maybe viewing this as a fact-finding mission could make the process more interesting or easy. Everyone knows the best detectives are subtle and discrete while observing. They don’t stare or lose focus of their surroundings while collecting information, and they draw from as many of their senses as possible.
Maybe you’re more “you” with strangers than you think. The key to being your comfortable self, in the company of those not-so-familiar, is to establish commonalities. We can be so over-concerned with how others perceive us when in actuality, most others are so consumed with themselves, they’re rarely aware of much else around them. Oftentimes, we all need to take ourselves a little less seriously.
Around strangers, if you want to try small talk, make it light and relevant. Waiting in line, signing in at registration at an event or meeting, with lag time before things officially begin, present opportunities to ask or be asked casual questions regarding your mutual attendance. Remember, commonalities. The best conversationalist is an excellent listener, always observing. Just politely express your thoughts or ask a relative question. Proceed lightly, with reserve, but genuinely. Be cautiously thoughtful and friendly.
See, being yourself is a complex concept, but it’s not that difficult to do. Your behaviors, moods, actions, and reactions can be so different, yet if they’re yours (and they are) then they are genuine. Lighten up, laugh more, and just enjoy being you. There’s no one else in the world just like you. Celebrate that!