Day 29 – Social
You’ve just finished your date, interview, business meeting or lunch with friends. What a huge success! You were on your game, saying all the right things and interacting in all the right ways. You’re mentally giving yourself a huge pat on the back… when you happen to glance in a mirror and see it. There’s something in your teeth. Is that parsley? Oh no! You’ve been flashing your pearly whites with perfect confidence, all the while being completely oblivious to the blatantly bright green thing wedged between your two front teeth. That thrilling feeling of social superiority has taken a nose-dive, crashing in a sickening feeling of supreme mortification.
If this has ever happened to you, you’ve likely wondered, “How did I not see that?” Sometimes our social faux pas are extremely obvious to others… while remaining oblivious to ourselves. Another fair question might be, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Perhaps you’ve been on the other side of the table. Someone is happily chatting away and you notice some slightly embarrassing piece of food in their teeth. You don’t want to embarrass them so you simply allow them to go on. I’ve certainly had both happen to me. I once did an entire hour-long appointment with a patient and family and upon returning to my office saw a large, black mascara streak under my eye, mimicking a football player about to hit the field. Ugh.
It’s the second to last day of our 30 Day Wellness Challenge and, don’t worry, I haven’t chosen to spend it highlighting simple hygiene. The reflection of such experiences brings up an interesting and thought-provoking question for each of us: Is there something unsightly in your daily interactions with friends, family or co-workers that you’re not seeing? Is that “social parsley” glaringly obvious to others but oblivious to yourself?
Just 2% of a person’s personality that is unpleasant can undermine the other 98% of their make-up that is positive and good.
Think about it. Have you ever said, “I really like (insert name) except they are so ______.” That one personality trait skews the potential for trust, interaction or enjoyment in your relationship with them. The sad part is, if you’ve noticed, likely so has someone else. Unfortunately, this person continues flashing their “social parsley” all over town without the slightest idea of their conspicuous being conspicious. Dr. Brunner discusses ten of these character flaws, all summarized below. As you read about each, pull out your personal mirror and take a good look— are any of these stuck in your teeth?
Enviousness: You aren’t truly happy for others’ success, and often try to match their accomplishments in an endless game of “Keeping up with the Joneses”.
Defensiveness: You are unwilling or reactive to accept corrections or criticism. As Dr. Brunner says, “Generally hypersensitive people don’t mature- they just grow old.”
Aloofness: Your cold and distant behaviors preclude others from being influenced or inspired by your positive qualities.
Volatility: You are overly emotional, thriving on attention and being unable to focus on anyone other than yourself.
Eccentricity: You may be successful at making the group laugh but your idiosyncrasies often stand in the way of progress and deeper relationships
Entitlement: An epidemic in society— you believe you deserve everything you want or receive.
Unreliability: You are unpredictable, not trustworthy and few people confide in you.
Eagerness to please: Your desire to please often drowns out your honest opinion. This suppression of true feelings can build up and spontaneously combust at times.
Moral scrupulousness: No one person or act escapes your critical eye. Your greatest example is yourself.
Deconstructive comments: A superfluous amount of sarcastic and cutting remarks cause people to avoid interactions with you and prevent meaningful relationships.
Did you feel some uncomfortable self-awareness gnawing at you as you read this? If so, did you ask yourself, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Your friends, family members, coworkers and acquaintances may tell you when you have something in your teeth but will likely hesitate when it comes to personality derailers.
It is usually embarrassing at first, for both parties, to draw attention to the unattractive. However, it is far better to know and correct the behavior than continue unknowingly deterring people and relationships. This is why this post is so important— not so you will have permission to inform everyone of their flaws but rather, that you may gather the courage to genuinely ask those most familiar to you, what character flaws you might remove with a little social cleaning.
In order to do this successfully, one very critical participant must also be present: humility. Do not, I repeat, do not ask someone for their feedback regarding your personality and character if you are not prepared to receive an honest answer. This is why I recommend you take time to consider and only ask three people that you truly care for and hold in high-esteem. These people likely have similar feelings towards you and your request for their honest feedback is more inclined to come with constructive and quality criticism cushioned between expressions of love and admiration.
I’ve purposefully saved this self-discovery post to be one of the last. Why? Because it is likely one of the most exposing, yet effective, exercises you’ve been challenged to do. This one takes a kind of courage most of us shun like the plague: vulnerability.
As Brene Brown once said, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.”
This leads to my ultimate question: Do you have the strength of character to open wide and inquire about your own “social parsley”?
Take some time to select three people whose opinions you deeply respect and who have a good understanding of who you are as a person. Once you’ve chosen them, find time to talk with each individually where neither of you are stressed and you are both without time constraints. Be genuine in your request to them regarding your desire to improve your personality and correct flaws to which you may be unaware. When this person you love provides feedback, your job is twofold: listen and learn. Do not justify your actions or become defensive— remember that you initiated this conversation. When finished, write down your feelings regarding the feedback you’ve received. Think of ways you might start removing your own “social parsley”. Make a commitment to yourself and keep it. As you do, your only future surprise in your reflection will be the strength of character smiling back at you.