New Year, Know You: Defining Your Identity as a Communicator

It’s that time of year again.  You know the one.  The time of year when commercials for everything from gym memberships to shampoo to cars are telling you it’s time for a “new” you. 

Well, I have great news for anyone who has resolved to become a better communicator in 2012.  Improving communication skills isn’t about creating a “new” you, it’s about knowing you.  No shiny newness required.

One of the most important keys to effective communication is authenticity.  Being real.  Being sincere.  Being you. 

This is true however and wherever communication occurs: a conversation with one person, a speech to a large group, a status update, an e-mail …   And communications are only authentic if they are actually genuine.  Sure, we can pretend to be someone else some of the time, but effective communication is a long-term proposition comprised of a vast web of connected interactions.   The only way to communicate effectively is to be honest and real all the time. 

Defining Yourself as a Professional, a Speaker, a Writer, a Communicator

Should be easy, right?   You know who you are.  You’ve been you for your whole life.  Unfortunately, most of us have been taught communication “rules” that banish our originality, individuality, and uniqueness.  Too often, these rules dictate the way we communicate, when it should be our personality and passion driving the bus.  It’s not that the rules are bad.  They ensure that messages will be widely understood.   It’s just that blind adherence to the rules makes everyone look, sound, and write the same.   Same isn’t real.  Same isn’t YOU.   And same is boring.

Breaking the rules helps us stand out from the crowd.   Of course, standing out from the crowd can be negative as well as positive.  Break the right rules and you’ll be unforgettable.  In the good way.  So rule-followers need know when to break them.   Break the wrong rules, break too many, or break them at the wrong time, and people will avoid you instead of follow you.   Rebels and rule-breakers need to know which rules must be followed.

Get to Know Yourself

But how do we know which rules to break and which to follow?  The answer is three-fold:  knowing ourselves, knowing our purpose, and understanding our audience.  We’ll be talking about the last two topics soon, but for the next few posts, I’ll be focusing on developing authenticity through self-assessment and self-awareness.  In business-speak, we’ll be working on developing a brand identity … only instead of a company or a product, the thing being branded is you.

So who are you?  As a complicated human being, I’m guessing you are many things to many people and different things at different times.  Defining your identity as a communicator, though, starts with defining your core attributes—those few, key things that are always true in every situation.   And, although these core attributes cannot be faked or pretended, they can be aspirational.  They can be things you want to be, as long as you are consciously working towards living them out on a daily basis. 

Here are some questions to get you started on the task of defining your identity–developing your personal brand–as a communicator.  We’ll discuss each of them in-depth in future posts.  

1.  Who do you think you are?  Write down some adjectives that describe the core of who you are.  These words should be true of you whether you are interacting with your best friend, your boss, or a person you just can’t stand. 

2.  Who do others think you are?  Ask your friends or family members to list some adjectives describing you.  Look over work reviews and recommendations to see which adjectives frequently occur.  Are they similar to the words you used to describe yourself?  Are they very different?

3.  Who do you want to be?  Who do you want others to think you are?  Write down some adjectives that describe the person you’ve always dreamed of becoming … the person you want others to see. 

As you answer questions 1 and 2, don’t shy away from negative attributes, if you think they accurately describe you.  While you don’t need a “new” you to be a great communicator, the process of defining your identity can reveal unflattering attributes that you’d like to change.  Deciding whether to change or what to change is entirely up to you.   As long as you know yourself—the good, the bad, and the ugly—you’ll be able to develop communication skills that emphasize strengths, downplay weaknesses, and build total confidence in your ability to reach people. 

HugSpeak specializes in personal branding, business branding, strategic marketing, and presentation skills coaching!

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