Through another’s looking glass

Aspirational re-booters know that an effective behavioral self-modification tool is to do the following: think of the way you normally conduct yourself; now imagine how others would imitate you.

How do you like them apples?

If the specter of such parody behavior makes you wince, I suggest that perhaps a modest course correction may be in order. As I have had the opportunity to learn on more than one occasion (heh heh), delivery is nearly as important as the message itself. What, exactly, are we telegraphing?

It’s easy to miss entirely the impact our behaviors have on others—we’re sending messages we may not even realize we’re sending. Where I am striving to be efficient and clear, others may perceive bossiness and a short temper. Where someone feels lost in his feelings of disappointment and heartache, those close to him may perceive immaturity and a mood disorder. Or how about the woman who is always perky and highly engaged in social justice advocacy? She may not recognize that her actions telegraph an attempt at emotional distance and avoidance of dealing with painful family matters closer to hearth and home. How about the person who continually runs themselves down, offering you multiple chances to reassure them?

But there’s an upside to this sort of examination, as well. Fortunately, there are many examples of people whose behaviors we admire—not across the board, perhaps, but situational behaviors that we respect. For instance, the man who remains calm and doesn’t yell when things go awry. Maybe I could do that, too, we think wistfully. Or the coworker who, despite other personality quirks, always finds some humor in a situation, making us laugh. How about the time your friend stopped what they were doing and pulled off the side of the road to help the motorist change a tire? And the high school basketball coach who reassured the player that being careless in a game was not a life sentence.

Having provided a couple of examples for you to consider, let’s turn the camera back on you. I want you to think about some of your typical behaviors—from morning routines to how you reply in conversations or express unhappiness. If one of the cast of Saturday Night Live were to portray you, what might they exaggerate? Would your family members secretly smile and nod in approval? What does this tell you about how you carry yourself? Are you cringing right now?

What personality quirks have your siblings or children or others mentioned to you? Maybe you act a whole lot more bitchy than you realize. Or perhaps your speeches do get a bit preachy. Is it possible you over dramatize things? Is it imperative that you stay quite so busy 24/7? When does the surfer-dude laid backness shtick turn into a vehicle to be sloppy? Is your tendency to be clueless actually a means to remain blind to uncomfortable realizations?

Of course, there’s plenty of room for each one of us to improve how we convey what we want to convey, and there’s room for us to do it in our own style and manner—which, just because it differs from someone else doesn’t make it bad or wrong–even if chaos drives some folks crazy doesn’t mean that it isn’t ok for you. But, if you’re anything like me, you have a sense of where you come across a little more exaggerated than you intend. So this is when it’s useful to force yourself to see these behaviors through the eyes of others and to seek out examples you admire. By keeping such positive examples in mind, it is possible to alter how you do things. You needn’t be stuck in the familiar grooves of old.

Here’s a homework assignment: force yourself to imagine SNL enacting a skit about you—what jumps out? Now, take that self-same quirk and scan your roster of people you know for someone who does the same thing in a way you admire. Keep this is mind as a positive example of a new approach. It gets easier with practice.

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One Response to “Through another’s looking glass”

  1. Julie Crispin Says:

    I am definitely cringing, and I have a feeling that my skit includes too much wine.

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