Often a daunting moment at an event or when meeting new people. Everyone gets to say a sentence or two to introduce themselves to the others. What do you say when it’s your turn?
Do you state your name, your hometown, your profession and are then somewhat relieved that you’re done with your part only to notice that for the first half of the round you were so busy thinking of what to say that you didn’t listen and for the second half have just given up because you wouldn’t be able to memorise so many names, hometowns, professions anyway?
I have attended many seminars both as a participant and as a facilitator and have been pondering the uneasiness about introducing oneself to others for a long time. Maybe the uneasiness stems from how bizarre the underlying conflict of an introduction really is; it’s a fairly standard procedure relying on keywords that others barely remember afterwards, yet it is based on the most fundamental question in every person’s life: Who am I?
The things that we say (or don’t say) about ourselves, we say for a reason. They either fit a narrative of how we want to see ourselves or how we want to be seen by others.
As an exercise in self-awareness and the underlying narratives for our introduction-keywords, why not have a look at the things we think we are.
The Label Game
I invite you to play a little self-reflection game with me. It’s called the Label Game.
Grab a pen and 22 little pieces of paper (sticky notes, a ripped page from your notepad, anything will do, as long as it’s 22 separate pieces). Sit down somewhere quiet(ish), ideally without music on since that has the power to influence our moods and thoughts.
Now, write down 22 words that describe yourself, one on each of your papers. Make sure these words aren’t descriptive adjectives, but rather nouns you identify with – like a label. If you were to use them in a sentence, they’d all ideally go together with: “ I am a / an … “
Take your time with that and don’t get frustrated if at some point the words stop flowing.
When you’re done with finding your labels, read through them again and think about why you picked them. Which narrative in your life do they fit, why do you see yourself as that or why do you want others to perceive you that way. Which words came into your head that you did not write down and why.
What feelings do you have towards these labels.
Next, we’ll be going through a few elimination rounds, you are going to have to temporarily part with some of your labels. The criteria on which you base your decisions are up to you. In the first round, cull 10 of your labels and put them to one side; you’re now left with 12 labels. In the second round, you need to get rid of another five. Place them next to the other ten from round one. From the 7 labels that you’re now left with, take another four. They go to the side.
That should leave you with your last three labels that you chose to keep all the way through the elimination. For each round, observe how culling labels makes you feel, how your decision-making process unfolds and why you kept what you kept between each stage. Ask yourself if the outcome would have been different if you would have to show the results to someone else and why.
Of cause, you get to keep all of your labels, also the ones you culled. View your four columns of labels as different layers of them, different levels of what makes you you.
The nouns that you chose are probably not some stand-alone features of yours. Think about how they are connected to each other, how one led to another or how they might form a bigger picture when combined. After all, this is your unique set of characteristics that no one else will have come up with in the same way. Only you have this particular set of features.
What you came up with during this exercise you might not want to share in an introduction round at your next event. But once you have seen how your layers of personality are intertwined and influence every aspect of your life, you might be able to see how they influenced who you are now and what brought you to the place you’re at. And that should make the old name-hometown-rank description from above more personal and more, well, you.
This is a fascinating exercise and you will see that its outcomes can change over time in different phases of your life. It’s a great gateway into deeper self-reflection exercises.
Why not share your labels here in the comments? What do you guys think mine were?
Let’s get to know each other: Introduction round – Label Game Style!