There’s a Chinese restaurant called the Panda Garden that my family used to frequent every Sunday. I recently read in a paper that it had been voted one of the best Chinese restaurants in Lawrence annually. That’s pretty impressive, considering there are a slew of Chinese restaurants in the college town.
The annual award might be because of the cuisine, but I have a different theory. I believe the Panda Garden is consistently voted best Chinese restaurant because of the owner.
The owner is one of the most personable people you’ll ever meet. Without fail every day, you can see the owner walking around and chatting with every single table, asking how the food is and getting to know her customers.
She isn’t friendly because she believes she’ll get more business from repeat customers (which she does). You can tell from the moment the owner approaches the table that she’s truly interested in how the food tastes and how your day has been. She’s genuinely interested in your life.
It might sound like I’m a regular at the restaurant, but the reality is that I haven’t eaten there in 15 years. That’s how much of an impact the owner has on my opinion of the establishment. I can remember our conversations and how she laughed and chatted with our family nearly every week.
So how does one go about being that genuine of a person? So genuine that they can take a commercial venture and add a couple dashes of character and personality, without feeling forced?
Blending your true personality with business isn’t an easy thing to do, if you’re doing it for business purposes.
But that’s just the rub: If you’re only being genuine because you think people like it when you’re sincere, then you’re really not being genuine, are you?
So how do you know if you’re being truly genuine?
Knowing if you’re being genuine is one of the easiest things in the world because it will feel natural. In fact, you’ll feel wrong/forced/weird/uncomfortable if you’re not being genuine.
Have you ever slept on your arm and then woken up with a numb arm? I do this every now and again, and it’s one of the weirdest feelings in the world. I can swing my arm around and not feel a single thing. The arm could be somebody else’s, for all my nerve endings are telling me.
This is what being insincere feels like: You’re wearing somebody else’s personality, and it just doesn’t quite fit.
Make a List!
I love Jason Teitelman’s method for maintaining your genuine self: Make a list of truths about yourself, and display it publicly, where you can see it every day.
(In the event that you’re a compulsive nose-picker, it might be prudent to be a little disingenuous and hold off putting “nose picker” on the list. At least the public list.)
Constantly reminding yourself about who you really are helps you stay true to your core self. Your core self is comprised of all the things that have shaped you:
- your upbringing
- your location
- your likes
- your dislikes
- your temperament
- etc., etc., etc….
Being Genuine Like a Politician
Politicians have exploited their background to gain more votes. Maybe they’ll bring out an unnatural dialect, or a sudden interest in the local sports team, or anything else they think they can play off of to win more votes.
The problem with this route is that many people see through this and eventually figure out the smarmy, under-handed tactics. Nobody likes having smoke blown up you-know-where. The same can happen if you try too hard to win affection by being insincere.
Think of the stressful lives those people who have built their entire careers around being artificial.
So, in all things.. be yourself, and people will respect you more than if you tried to be someone you weren’t.
Other Tips to Being More Genuine
Being genuine is one of the hardest things because it requires you to be vulnerable. Every person has a “face” that they can put on to hide their true emotions. But the fact is, we’ve come to accept that emotions are weak.
Not to turn into the macho-guy, but think about the movie Gladiator. The main character, (played by Russel Crowe), is purely driven by emotion, and he doesn’t try to hide them. It’s one of the most endearing qualities about him. It’s ok to show how you’re feeling. It’s healthy.
Note: There are some of you, (don’t worry, you know who you are), that might show enough emotion on a given day for five people. There’s something to be said for not being too dramatic on occasion.
Being vulnerable doesn’t mean that you put on a turtleneck, and start weeping and strum a guitar. All it means is that you allow other people to see what you’re really thinking and feeling.
Being vulnerable gives others a way to look into your life, to become closer to you because of your openness about some aspect of your life.
And the True Indicator to Being Genuine…
The owner of the Panda Garden could stay at home and manage the “business” side of things remotely. Paying bills, paying employees, marketing, and many other things. But instead she comes every day to the restaurant and chats with everyone. Why? It’s because that’s what she loves to do. It fills her, and it would feel foreign and awkward if she weren’t doing that every day.
What about you? Do you wake up with someone else’s personality between you? Or are you being yourself? It might be fun to list a few traits that you find original to yourself below, just to see what you come up with.