Imagine a video camera following you round all day. What impression are you getting of yourself? Do you think 'Oh what a lovely person I am? I am confident, personable and people like me. I am brilliant.' Or are you cringing at how you appear to others?
A guy I once knew, let's call him Micky, used to cringe at himself. Micky was the son of a farmer, who got pretty good grades and attended a good university. He was educated at a private school and had a small group of friends. But Micky never had a girlfriend and he was extremely shy. Micky's problem was that he thought he didn't have anything to offer and he felt he was not very good at conversation, he had a stutter and compared to his friends, felt like the one who was the hanger-on. Somehow whilst his friends had girls falling at his feet, Micky just tried not to fall over his feet. He was the extra on a date, a wing-man, there to make up the numbers.
Micky started going to dance lessons in order to boost his confidence, but despite learning a new skill and with the opportunity for socialising, he still couldn't rid himself of the feeling he had inside that he would never be as popular as everyone else. Inside, he felt wretched, he wanted to be able to talk to girls with stumbling over what he said, he wanted to be confident and maybe even a little proud about his interesting work researching crops, but he had so much fear and so little belief in himself and what he could achieve. He almost gave up.
I wish I had sat him down and talked to him about it. Micky needed to draw the line on how other people made him feel. There were three crucial things I wish he could know:
1. His friends, despite the appearance of confidence, were not as they made out. They had insecurities and issues which Micky could not see. Despite their appearance of popularity and success, they had failed relationships and actions to regret. He saw a mask of confidence, created, fragile and cleverly constructed. He wasn't the only one who had an attack of shyness, it was just that others had learnt to cover it.
2. Getting on with people can be helped by putting people at ease. It's tough to get results sometimes, but it's often about watching and giving signals about how others are feeling. Learning to recognise these is a good start to be able to respond.
3. Looking inside himself would help Micky find the basis for the topics of his conversation. His hobbies, interests and opinions were valuable; whatever his friends might say. Once he stood up for those things, he stood up for himself. Whilst it may take a little time for him to find people with whom he instantly clicked, it was worth widening his circle of friends to give him as much exposure to different types of people which would help his understanding of different ways of approaching life and the more he was open to that, the easier that would be.
Being able to stand up and be counted for what you believe in, risking humiliation from others requires a whole lot of guts. To know yourself means that you can be prepared to talk for yourself, and you can manage the words that people may throw at you. Coming across well encompasses physical presentation as well as emotional but the two are closely linked. It's about knowing you can walk away come what may.
If you know where you're going, it's easier to say no, to leave it, to be able to walk away. But if you don't know, you will not come across well.
What would you say is the most important thing in coming across well?