How to Impress Others

Photo by beastmanphotos via Flickr

We all want to be smart, beautiful, magnetic. We want to impress others with our charm and intelligence. What’s the best way to dazzle those around us? It’s not what you might think.

First, a simple exercise. Make a list of five things you want others to think about you. Each item on the list should start with “I’d like others to think I’m…” Your list might include things like “loveable”, “intelligent” or “a leader”. Create your list now and don’t read any farther until you have at least five items on it.

Done? Now take a look at the items on your list – it’s likely that these are where you put a lot of your energy and focus. They are probably the areas you tend to stress about, that trigger your insecurities. My guess is that this is where you want to look good but feel that you don’t.

The problem is that wanting “others to think” you’re anything (fill in the blank – smart, cute, charismatic…) puts the focus on merely looking good. And when our efforts go into looking good we can end up convincing ourselves that looking good is equal to actually being good – believing that talking like an intellectual is the same as being intelligent (and who hasn’t found themselves with someone who loves to hear themselves talk as they try to impress others?)

But don’t throw away your list! It’s a valuable inventory of areas that are important to you, areas that you really do want to improve in your life. You can use that information to figure out where to put your efforts and energy to learn and grow.

Using the list you created, identify an action step for each item that will move you towards being good in the areas you care about.

For example using the list in the second paragraph one might work to:

  • Become more loveable by building sincere connections with others
  • Increase your knowledge by reading about an era in history you’re interested in, joining a book club or taking a class
  • Learn leadership skills by asking someone seen as a leader to be your mentor

When we put our focus on merely looking good we often achieve the opposite effect. Plus, our efforts are usually surprisingly transparent to others, and we may waste valuable time and resources in trying to create what is, ultimately, an illusion. By focusing on improving our knowledge or skills in the areas that are important to us, we end up not only achieving more but we also end up looking good naturally and effortlessly.

The Discomfort Zone

Map of the East Village neighborhood in Manhat...
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We’re all familiar with our Discomfort Zone.  It’s where we’re stretched, where we’re pushing our edges.  Just the thought of traveling there can make us fearful, and many of us work hard to avoid it.  We try to protect ourselves with a list of  ”I don’ts” – “I don’t drive in the city”, “I don’t make speeches”, “I don’t go to funerals”, or simply, “I don’t know how.”

It’s pretty easy to spot the folks who make a habit of avoiding their Discomfort Zones.  It’s the guy who hates his job but won’t look for a new one.  Or the person who ignores a medical issue.  Or the woman who refuses to go to social events for her husband’s work, leaving him to make excuses for her.

If we go through life dodging our Discomfort Zone our lives get smaller and even, in some cases, shorter.  There are things we need to do to take care of ourselves and manage our lives –going to the doctor when we have those mysterious symptoms, or weathering the stress of interviewing for jobs when we’re out of work.  And there are things we want to do that might require some discomfort – learning a new skill or visiting a foreign country.

The trick to conquering our Discomfort Zone is to simply go there and stay – not forever, not beyond our limits, but long enough to move past our fears and learn what’s there to learn.  I’ve found the more often I go into my Discomfort Zone the easier it gets.  The feeling of “I’ll die if I have to do this” fades and I gain confidence as I move into the experience.

It gets easier because much of what we believe about our Discomfort Zone is fiction.  We dream up exaggerated disaster scenarios – the crowd dissolving into laughter as we make our speech, hysteria at the funeral, getting lost forever in the city.  And, fearing we won’t be able to control what happens, we lose touch with the reality that we are capable of handling difficult situations.

What usually occurs when we venture into our Discomfort Zone is that we do fine.  We even may surprise ourselves and discover we’re better than we thought at navigating the city or public speaking.  But even if our outcome isn’t perfect, even if we’re uncomfortable at the funeral, or give a speech that’s merely serviceable – we still do ok, and that’s often enough to get through the Discomfort Zone.

What’s important is that we don’t let our fears get in the way of our growth.  That we trust in the fact that the Discomfort Zone is only uncomfortable because we make it so.

Because yesterday’s discomfort might just be today’s adventure.

Copyright © 2010    From The Easy Place