in: People, Social Skills

• Last updated: September 26, 2021

Social Briefing #2: Do Others See You Differently Than You See Yourself?

Commender Social Briefing.

Social Briefings are short bi-monthly dispatches that offer practical tips to improve your social skills. Read more on their raison d’etre. 

In these first Social Briefings, we’ve been presenting two questions/thought-starters designed to help you think through whether your current social style is one you’d like to keep or change.

Last time, we asked whether your old social patterns were still working for you, and talked about the fact that we sometimes pick up social habits that made sense for us at a certain point in our lives, but may no longer do so with where we’re at now.

Today’s question for consideration is this:

Do others see you differently than you see yourself?

Whether your social behaviors are something you developed because of the circumstances of a certain phase of your life, or something that’s been ingrained in your DNA since birth, how we think these proclivities are perceived by others, may be a lot different than how they actually are.

Below you’ll find a table that shows common behaviors you might engage in when interacting with others, how you may think they come off, and how they might actually be interpreted by other people. These are taken (with permission) from First Impressions: What You Don’t Know About How Others See You; you can find even more examples in the tables available on their website.

If You Do ThisYou May Think You SeemYou May Seem
Share what’s on your mind before basic personal informationInteresting and offbeatSelf-centered, eccentric, inappropriate
Show little attention to your grooming and styleNatural, not concerned with superficialitiesSocially unaware, careless
Withhold attention or interestCool and confidentUninterested, rejecting, cold
Listen, but don’t add topics to the conversationInterested, thoughtfulDull, self-involved
Focus on only one topicPassionateBoring, self-absorbed, lacking in curiosity
Deliver a lecture on something you know a lot aboutSmart, interestingBombastic, boring, self-absorbed
Introduce topics with the goal of convincing others of your way of thinkingEnlightened, smart, passionateTedious, draining
Talk about “charged” topics such as salaries or religionPassionate, interestingInsensitive, offensive
Dominate the conversation with jokes and humorEntertaining, lively, funnyTedious, draining
Focus on your individuality rather than your commonality with othersInteresting, eccentricInaccessible, self-involved, socially awkward
Share more than others doOpen, honest, revealingBurdensome, inappropriate
Share much less than othersIn control, mysteriousClosed, uninteresting, cold
Speak more quickly and pause more briefly than othersInteresting, energizedEmotionally draining, alienating
Speak more slowly or pause longer than othersRelaxed, comfortable, thoughtfulBoring, tedious
Speak more loudlySelf-confident, fun, interestingBombastic, self-satisfied, offensive
Speak much more than othersInteresting, informativeSelf-absorbed, difficult to connect with
Act inflexibly to unexpected eventsDetermined, appropriately demandingNeedy, entitled, high maintenance
Present yourself as superior to othersImportant, impressiveIntimidating, insecure
Present yourself as inferior to othersModest, endearingAwkward, lacking confidence
Blame othersHonest, straightforwardDifficult, socially needy, victimized
Focus on negative aspects of a situationStraightforward, realisticUnlikable, unpleasant
Make less eye contact than othersNormal, respectfulRejecting, uninterested, shy, awkward

The key word in these examples is may. Some of these behaviors may in fact work just as you think they do, and be winning in certain situations, with certain people, and in the context of your overall personality.

So too, even if they’re not working in the way you think they are, you may not wish to alter them because you feel they’re an important expression of your real self.

As the authors of First Impressions put it, the point of this self-examination exercise, then, is simply to “identify gaps between how you think you come across and how others actually perceive you, so you can make changes if you want to and when you want to [emphasis mine].”

Improving your social skills isn’t about trying to be someone you’re not, but making sure that other people perceive you in the way you want be perceived — making sure that the impression you make presents your best qualities and is more accurate, not less.

It is very commonly the case that your social behaviors do come off differently than you realize — in a way that’s at odds with your true personality and desires, and disguise rather than reveal what you’re really like. In such cases, it behooves you to tweak those habits so that you present yourself in a more positive and authentic way.

Many of the future Social Briefings we’ll put out will help you do just that.

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