Have you ever been in one of those group settings, say the standard corporate training seminar, perhaps a new classroom environment or even a dinner party or other social gathering? It’s often awkward and the host attempts to break the ice with the once around the room introductions and “share something about yourself that most people don’t know”.
The challenge is that in the conformity, fit-in, ‘herd mentality’ of the 20th Century most people were conditioned to try to not stand out which only inflates the social paralysis that grips people. Today, in the mass communication, digitally noisy 21st Century, there is so much information and story overload that it’s very easy to get swallowed up by it…and quickly. So in the scenarios above, people either clam up and say as little as possible or they yak endlessly about the same things that the last five people talked about in an attempt to out discuss the subject and create more noise. Unfortunately, none of that is telling your real story, none of it separates you from the herd and it’s usually not very interesting.
In his book, We Are All Weird, Seth Godin suggests that it is not only ok to stand out with your own story but essential as we move past the ‘one size fits all’ culture.
“Mass is about the center, the big, fat, juicy addressable center. Governments, marketers and teachers have organized around servicing and profiting from the mass. And now; the center is melting.”
I’m not suggesting that you go around dressing like Lady Gaga, but there is a real and specific reason she does so, it moves her ahead of the herd and it gets the attention she needs to tell her own story. Everyone has their own story and it’s far more interesting than the usual ‘share button’ dribble that gets passed around Facebook and Twitter. Does that mean air all of your personal drama to the world? Noooo. It does require that you give some thought to ‘your own story’ and have the courage to throw it out there.
So as an example, here are three ‘weird things’ about myself that are shared in the social environments mentioned above. I always share these three together too. Each snippet seems to grab the attention of a different part of the audience and together create a story that is mine alone.
Secret Agent Man
For the better part of my last year in college, I interviewed to become a federal agent with the United States Secret Service. The goal was to work for the FBI and investigate complex crimes.
You broke what? With Your What?
Probably not the brightest thing I’ve ever done, but yes in my earlier martial arts days I would break bricks with my head in demonstrations.
Anyone ever tell you that you look like that guy from “Friends”?
Chandler Bing? Yes, repeatedly…in fact, I’ve heard it so much that I need to start charging Matt Perry for being his doppelgänger.
We all have our story to tell, that makes us interesting and unique…so go out and tell it. You can’t be afraid of people thinking you are weird, we’re all weird in our own way. You may miss out on making some real connections and opening new doors for your life and perhaps your career.