THE BLOG

#1 Most Terrifying Question

03/12/2015 03:33 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2015
JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images

In the all-seeing, ever-connected social climate of today, we spend so much time honing in on our online personalities, and crafting profiles that best represent what we want to tell people about who we are. But of course, the question remains: How do other people in your life really perceive you? Do they see you as the kind, smart, clever, loving, fun person you are, or at least hope to be? Is it possible that they have picked up on qualities you don't even realize you have?

A Washington University study investigated that very question with 165 volunteers in effort to determine who is the better judge of our personalities -- us or others. Findings concluded that while individuals are clued into their general fears and anxieties, other people are often better judges of personality and behaviors.

What that means is this: you have an incredible opportunity to learn and understand a huge part of your life by doing your own research, with a pool of qualified volunteers who care about you: your friends.

What Do You Think of Me?

Think about your friends; are there ones whose personality traits you lovingly accept as part of their personalities? Do you ever confide in one friend about the particularities of a mutual acquaintance? Here's a fact: they're saying the same things about you. People who know and spend a lot of time with you have all sorts of insights and opinions about you that you may be yet unaware of. We're especially blind to the deeper issues that hold us back from getting healthy, having a happy love life or going for the promotion at work. But chances are -- if you've got quirks to work out, your friends have already noticed. Asking for their observations and opinions won't just improve our relationships, it might even unlock our future successes and avert some failures.

Ahem, I have something to ask you...

It's a scary thing! How do you approach someone with such a loaded question? First, before popping the question, prepare yourself by making a list of all the worst things you might possibly hear. Write it down and be honest -- seeing it on paper will give you a chance to face those fears yourself so you won't be blindsided in the real conversation.

Next decide who to ask.

The only thing that might spook us more than hearing someone's honest opinion, is having to give OUR honest opinion of them. People who love you won't want to hurt your feelings, and they might fear that you'll get defensive or angry with them. Ask yourself: what do you want out of the conversation and what are you willing to learn about yourself? Only ask people you trust, and with whom you feel safe. Let them know that they won't "get in trouble" by telling you the truth, even if it's negative, because you want to learn and grow from the exercise. And lastly, assure them that you're grateful for the honesty and the opportunity to share such intimate information with a friend.

How to have the conversation:

Always ask if it's a good time to speak about something important to you, and check their space for any distractions. Have this conversation over coffee, not at a loud party. Explain your motives and give them the clearance to be truthful. Some questions could be:

  • Have I ever hurt your feelings?
  • Is there anything about me you wish I would change?
  • Are their traits that I display that make you or others uncomfortable?
  • Do I owe you an apology for anything in the past?
  • Is there something you wish I would do more, that I do not do?
  • What do others think of me?

Don't forget to thank your friend for their willingness to engage with you on this level. You have a choice as to whether to make any changes to your behavior based on the information and opinions you receive in your conversations. But at the very least, you might want to keep what you heard in mind as you negotiate tricky spots in relationships or other life challenges -- and consider whether altering how you're perceived might help life go more smoothly for you.

Love, Lauren

Not sure what to do with all that new, honest information? Our Design Your Life Tele-Course is designed to help you diffuse the fears, excuses and justifications that have held you back as you define and start creating your dreams. If you're ready to jump-start a new era in your life, or you just need an inspirational "kick in the butt", this powerful course will get you in action, feeling proud and moving toward your goals once and for all.