By Mary Atchison
I often listen to public radio as I travel to meet with clients and to meetings. I completely enjoy learning about things that I otherwise would have no clue about. I also really enjoy listening to the experts that are interviewed regularly.
I have to admit, though, that sometimes I cringe slightly when I hear how some of those experts come across over the radio. Some of them don’t come across very well. Did they spend time thinking about how they want to show up?
I often wonder.
But here’s the thing: Every one of us is projecting who we are every single day, even if we are not on national radio. The people with whom we come in contact every single day learn who we are through our very presence.
Every day when we get up, go to work, interact with colleagues and customers, and socialize we are showing up a certain way, and creating an impression, a reputation: A BRAND.
Do you take time every single day to consciously decide how you want others to perceive you? Do you think about the various events you have throughout your day, and how you would like to come across at each event? If you are intentional and thoughtful about it, you can strongly influence the impression.
I recently sat in on a group of (very) successful entrepreneurs. I was a newbie to this group of people who had bonded over a period of time. I felt very lucky to be there and be able to learn from them. As we chatted, one of the women made a comment that I was certain was not correct.
I quickly ran through my options for how to respond.
Should I jump in and correct her? Should I just let it go so I don’t come across as bossy so that she will like me? If I say anything will she resent me? How important is this?
I like to be liked as much as the next person, but luckily, I had already done some work on determining who I am and how I choose to be perceived. One of those is to be seen as a strong confident person who doesn’t back down in difficult situations. To live like that I determined I needed to say something.
So, gently, I expressed my doubt about her accurateness. We discussed, it, Googled it, and agreed on an answer we both felt comfortable with. (Yay! Success!)
In the past, I would have likely let it go and just remained quiet. By speaking up, others in the group later told me, I came across as confident, assertive, but not bossy.
Here are some things to consider:
Know your value system and what is important to you. What are your values? How to you want to be in your life? How do you want to feel, and how to you choose to be perceived by others?
- Spend some time writing down words that are right for you. Do you value honesty? Integrity? Confidence? Expertise? Being a good friend? Write down as many words as you can think of about how you would like to come across. Narrow those down to between 5 – words.
- Spend some time writing out what each of those words means to you. If you value confidence, for example, what does confidence look like? How can you tell when someone is confident? Be as detailed as possible.
- The next step is to work on each of those qualities regularly. Spend time regularly reviewing the words and descriptions. Keep them top of mind. Think about them regularly throughout your day, and act on those words as situations arise.
- You can take baby steps (such as I did in my conversation), and as you do, your confidence in that quality will grow.
Increase your self-awareness of how you come across.
I know a young woman who is the youngest of five children in a noisy, active family. She tagged along with the older kids but was never the leader and was often ‘the pest’. As she grew up and started her career, she realized that she was not getting promotions she thought she deserved.
She finally drummed up the courage to talk to her boss about it. She was told that she rarely speaks in meetings, doesn’t take the lead on projects, and basically, comes across as a follower. She realized that she was taking on the same role at work as she did in her family, and decided that was not how she wanted to show up.
As we all know, it is not just what we say that communicates who we are and what is important to us. It is also how we speak, our tone of voice, our appearance, and our body language. It is how we manage our time, the relationships we choose to have. Even how we come across on social media.
- Ask people close to you (who you know can be lovingly honest) how you show up in different situations. Be kind to yourself and to them as you have these conversations. Remember, you are increasing your self-awareness to become more aligned with who you are!
- Take that feedback and make any needed changes. For example, if you want to show up as confident, but typically wear jeans and a t-shirt, you may want to consider upping your style game. Or, if you want to show up as friendly and approachable, take the time to learn new, more open body language. If you want to be calm and centered, learn and practice meditation. If you want to show up as professional, remove those apologies from your conversations! However you want to show up, learn what you can do to get closer and closer to that reality.
- Also, recognize patterns. When you are under pressure, do you tend to become quiet? When you are asked for your opinion, do you typically defend it, digging in your heels, simply because it is yours? Do you tend to defer to others to take the lead in meetings and on projects even though you would like to be seen as a leader? Make a conscious effort to respond differently. You can even plan and role-play situations that you know occur on a regular basis.
When you have a big event coming up, (a presentation, being on the radio, a performance review, even an important meeting) you can prepare yourself to show up the way you want to.
- Take some time to review your list of values and what those mean in terms of actions. Choose three or four words that describe how you want to show up in this stress-filled situation.
- Take the time to visualize yourself in that situation being exactly how you want to be—confident, professional, competent, and articulate (for example). Do this several times, and use self-talk to talk to yourself about how you ARE those qualities.
- Also, think about someone who you feel has the qualities you would like to show. You can imagine you are that person and do what you think that person would do. For example, if you want to be a real badass in a certain situation—someone that doesn’t take any sh*t–think about who in your life comes across that way and channel her during that difficult meeting.
By being conscious of how you want to show up you are making a choice about who you want to be and how you want to be perceived in any given situation. You can begin to let go of how others want you to be or think you are, and choose to be who you truly and authentically want to be.
You definitely CAN change the script. Decide how you want to show up every single day, and DO IT!
Mary Atchison is the CEO of Yellow Wagon Leaders, a boutique leadership development, training, and coaching firm. She also works with family businesses and with workplace conflict situations. A former therapist, Mary has also been a leader in the non-profit, for-profit, foundation and public sectors. She and her husband live and work in Northern Colorado. You can check out her leadership blogs on her website.