In the late1980’s a colleague admonished me to “open up” and let people get to know me. I have said the same to you from time to time. Back then, and really throughout my career, there were no personal photos in my office and only a handful of people had information about my personal life. I was divorced, had no children, no pets, and only succulent plants that needed little care. While I had dated the same man for many years, few knew who he was. My family was in Florida, I visited them frequently and talked with them almost daily, yet few knew anything about them. INFORMATION ABOUT MY PERSONAL LIFE WAS ON A “NEED TO KNOW” BASIS AND FEW NEEDED TO KNOW – OR SO I THOUGHT.
One day a colleague whom I trusted said people were uncomfortable with me because they did not know who I was. She meant they did not know anything about my personal life. Being active in work projects and joining in after-work socializing was not enough. For all my co-workers knew, I could have been from the planet Vulcan. This colleague and I laughed and decided it might be a good thing to ease their worries. To make me appear more “warm and human” she brought to my office a framed photograph of her dog. We renamed him Blackie. She said having the photo of Blackie on my desk would at least say I liked animals. Blackie’s photograph stayed on my desk for many years and made a lot of folk “more comfortable” with me.
What about you? How do you communicate aspects of your personal life to increase the comfort others have with you? Do you prominently display family photos or give weekly updates on happening with the family? As cynical as it sounds, those photos and updates keep a lot of Busy Bodies and Nosy Rosies at bay. JUST A LITTLE BIT OF INFORMATION GOES A LONG WAY TO INCREASE THE COMFORT OTHERS HAVE WITH YOU.
I have learned you have to give the people something. This is especially true when you are in a position of leadership. Basic personal information actually lays the foundation for relationship building. IT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO CONTROL HOW MUCH AND HOW FREQUENTLY YOU SHARE. Over time I shared more stories about my family so others would begin to know what was important to me. My co-workers knew very well that “Mama ‘em” (Mama and them) were my heartstring. They had a real need to know and at times I had a need to share.
- People are curious about the “you” behind the title.
- If you do not give them the narrative of your life, they will write their own script.
- It is not necessary, and not recommended, that you share every aspect of your personal life with anyone, especially those with whom you work.
- Give the people what they want. At least have a dog!