Some questions seem rather simple. They're icebreakers or small talk in some situations, and in others, they can affect decisions and judgments made about you, as in an interview. When someone asks you who you are, how should you go about answering it? Is it easy for you to come up with something or do you feel at a loss for words or standing on the edge of a deep abyss of discomfort? Do you have a standard answer that satisfies on the surface, but really doesn't say anything at all? Or do you launch into some deep, philosophical justification of your existence?
And Who Might You Be?
Know yourself, develop a sense of identity, and stay on message.
Are There Different Versions of Me?
There is no right way to tell people who you are and what you're all about. You might want to tailor your response to suit the situation and the person's motivation for questioning you, but essentially, it is good to know yourself and stay on message.
What does that mean? Can you 'stay on message' and craft different responses at the same time?
Of course. If you really know who you are deep down and are comfortable with yourself, you won't have a problem presenting both the long form and the short form of your identity statement. You'll be able to stay true to yourself in both social and professional situations, as well. See it as one you - but you can provide the Readers Digest, Executive Summary, Unabridged (and more) versions.
The First Question
There are a few different issues here. Before you even get to the point of being able to express yourself suavely, you should ask yourself, “Yes, who am I?”
This is identity. The many facets of your life that you value, that go into your personality, that make up your reality. The things you choose to make a part of your life, and the things you're born with that you acknowledge and accept. All of these things make up what you are – your identity.
So if you ask yourself - Who am I? - what are the things that come to mind?
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The Second Question
In business, we might call this 'marketing'. How are you selling yourself to people? Do you even want to 'sell' yourself? Some of us might be highly selective about what we tell other people - even in situations were 'selling' is required. How do we come up with a story about ourselves?
I'd like to suggest doing something that I tell every student who attends my writing classes. It is something you need to ask yourself before any piece of writing that you set out to create, whether it be a novel, a resume, an advertisement, or an essay for school. And I'd argue that it applies to orally delivered stories as well.
What is your goal? What do you want to achieve through this story?
If you can't answer that question, you're going to have a hard time communicating and connecting with people. And you're probably going to get a little confused yourself.
You don't have to have a script to read to people when they ask you to introduce yourself. That would be strange. But putting some thought into the details you would like to share might be helpful.
If you've achieved some clarity about your identity - who you are - it's time to figure out what parts of that identity will help you reach your goal.
A Few Examples
- If you're interviewing for a job, having a clear picture of your approach to work and how important your work and output are to your sense of self is crucial. If you can't talk about your work values, potential employers aren't going to spend time trying to figure it out for you.
- If you're attending a social event where your goal is to meet new people, be ready to talk about those values that you'd like to have in a new friend. Why hide your likes, dislikes, interests and values if the goal is to find people you want to enjoy spending time with?
These seem like no-brainers, but really, many people go through life feeling like they are not understood - that nobody really 'gets' them. That they have a network of friends they don't really enjoy. They they have a partner who seems like a stranger sometimes.
Do you 'get' yourself? In my experience, that answer is a resounding NO.