Today I am sharing a question I used to hate.
"Tell me something interesting about yourself..."
This question comes up for various reasons, but it's usually intended as an ice-breaker, something to start conversation. As much as I love to talk, I usually find it incredibly difficult to come up with something. In this regard, I am not unique-- most people find it difficult to come up with something interesting about themselves. Simply put, we find our own lives to be boring.
For instance, consider that every day I wake up before dawn, go through my morning routine, and then drive to work, usually witness to the sunrise. I work in a nuclear power plant as an instructor. I teach leadership training! Before I took my current job, it didn't exist. I do all of this with only a high school diploma… (and ten years of experience in the US Navy). In the Navy, I qualified as a reactor operator on December 18th . I got my driver’s license on December 19th... To my knowledge, this makes me the only person to have been legally able to independently operate a reactor before being legally able to operate a car! I was on USS Enterprise when she went dead in the water in 2005. I was once told by a self-proclaimed psychic that I was the most well-balanced person she had met. When I laughed, she countered that most people are either artistic or technical—she clearly saw me as a 50/50 split of both— Note: for the first half of my life I lived as if I was going to be a musician/artist/writer. The second half of my life I've lived as if those dreams couldn't ever come true, and devoted myself to technically based careers.
And all I can think about all of that is, so what?
To you, these facts might seem neat. These facts might stir up interests or questions. You may want to know more. You may want to share similar stories. For you, these facts are tools used to build connections. But to me, these facts represent small events in my life, events that were surrounded by much bigger ones. Some of the events were painful. Some still are. To me, these facts are just facts. Data points in the slipstream of my travels.
This double standard is one of the many obstacles to communication. It’s a lesson in Empathy. From now on, when someone asks you to share something interesting about yourself, approach your life from their perspective instead of from yours. In fact, don’t even wait for someone to ask you! Imagine the sense of wonder and amazement that can be renewed within you simply by changing your perspective of your life and your routine! By keeping a child's mind, a mind open and free from preconceived notions, you can experience unbridled joy and awe... It's a beautiful thing. A humbling thing.
I challenge you to think of an event in your life that you consider mundane, and re-frame it in the vantage point of someone you've just met. Feel free to share your event (ahem, your tool used to build connections) in the comments!
PS: I just realized that I started by saying I was sharing a question, and yet quoted a request that was clearly not worded as a question. I could have edited that, but then you wouldn't have gotten to share a chuckle with me! Tee Hee!