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Four Steps to Becoming Better Understood

By Executive and Life Coach Barbara Waxman for eHarmony


Do you feel as though your strengths are what people remember? That the way you would like others to describe you is, in fact, happening most of the time? Because I’m a coach, cocktail party conversation often turns into a coaching conversation and this year’s theme has been about how to best present the “me” I want others to see. The me I want others to respect, to turn to, to want to commit to.

Dana is a perfect example. Dana is a professor whose work has been published in journals and who has captured that elusive brass ring of tenure at a prestigious university. Yet she feels as though she doesn’t come across the way she would like. She always thought she would be married by now but has never had a relationship get to that point and doesn’t quite know why. She sees other less published faculty members having their ideas catch on rather than hers. Dana is ready to look squarely in the mirror and dare to see what has been holding her back from relationship success, both personally and professionally. So what does she need to do to show up as the person she wants to be?

After hearing this question from so many wonderful, beautiful people, I thought it would be helpful to share some thoughts about how to break through that gap between who you want to be and how you are perceived.

1. Set an intention every morning and decide how you want to show up today. When I set my intention this morning, knowing I would be meeting with others going through some real hardships today, my thoughts went something like this: “I want to be a peaceful, loving support for others. I want to have the kind of energy that feels alive while also being calm and present. And I want to make time for some fun so I can laugh and smile because I know I’ll need it by this evening.”

2. Be aware of your body language. We tend to spend so much time thinking about what we want to say that we forget about the language of our bodies and our expressions. Be aware of your facial expressions. Are they in alignment of the emotions of the person you are meeting with? Is your stance open? Smile — it not only makes you feel better but it conveys your sense of warmth and strength to others.

3. Accept your vulnerabilities and protect them with appropriate boundaries…but not so much that you don’t really engage with others. Brene Brown, a social science researcher said it best: “Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy — the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.”

4. Be present — listen deeply to another’s point of view. Be sure to tie in the other’s comments and points of view when responding with your own. How many times have you known your response before the other person even finished their thought? Do you regularly pause to take the information in before responding? If not, your response is not based on true understanding but on pre-defined judgment. When you take the time to be present for others, they tend to use that time to see you in a more positive light.

Learn more about Executive and Life Coach Barbara Waxman and her coaching philosophy.

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