Reality Check: To Change Ourselves

There must be thousands of personality tests available on websites, magazines, and facebook. Some people think they’re silly, but plenty of others like them. People like to learn about themselves, and many also have a wish along the lines of, “I’d like to be different somehow.”
Is there, somewhere, a magical test that could finally explain you to yourself? Maybe. Or, perhaps you could come up with your answers by putting some thought into what, exactly, you want to be different.
For example, Scott hates to talk to strangers. He isn’t terribly shy—he can talk comfortably with friends. He’d just like to be more outgoing. Even in casual situations, he finds it hard to think of topics of conversation, and he generally feels ill-at-ease with people he doesn’t know well.
He believes that his reserved nature may be holding him back at work. And if he could be a little more extraverted, that could make his social and family life easier as well.
Of course, there are positives to this characteristic, too. He tends to not speak unless he has something relevant to say, which is not such a bad quality to have!
However, if Scott believes that this trait is holding him back, then it would be helpful for him to know how to change it. Whether it’s fear or lack of knowledge that’s holding us back, it always feels more powerful when we know we have choices.
So, how might Scott proceed to develop this knowledge or quell this fear?
He could choose a new perspective. That is, Scott could consider viewing the task of “becoming more outgoing” as if it were a job. In his workplace, Scott is quite capable at doing his tasks. He knows how to get the job done.
So, rather than viewing this as a difficult personality change, look at it as just another job. Scott has had success with other tasks, he can do this one.
How to go about it?
First, it would be helpful for Scott to get a clear picture of what it would look like to be “more outgoing.” Ask yourself, “If I were more outgoing, what would I be doing differently?” Be specific. Make some notes.
For example, “At work, I’d like to be comfortable initiating a conversation with someone from a different department.” Or, “At a family dinner, I’d like to chat with a relative I don’t know well, instead of only speaking to people I know.”
Those might be examples of what “outgoing” might look like to Scott.
Then set out to do small things each day toward that end. It could be as simple as, “I’ll smile and say hello to two people I don’t know well today.”
At a dinner, Scott could decide that he’ll ask a relative something about their life. Questions are helpful conversation starters, especially when fueled by genuine curiosity.
At work, Scott could express an interest in what a coworker does in their job. Many people don’t show any real interest in others, so that approach can provide information as well as connection.
Volunteering is another great way to practice your skills. Pick a local club, charity, or committee that’s interesting to you and that could use some help.
Then, write down what you’ve tried and how that worked. With any experiment, sometimes you get the results you want, other times not. When you said hello, did they say hello back? Or did they turn away and keep walking? What might you do differently next time?
Writing your results is also useful because it’s easy to forget where you were when you started. You might not realize how much you have improved!
Do you make changes in yourself? Are they successful? What do you do?

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