More than a decade ago, as I was leaving for college, my mother gave me this piece of advice:
“Let people discover you.”
Because she didn’t elaborate much on what she meant, I took this to mean that I should play with waiting to be asked questions before I volunteered stories or information about myself.
It started as a fun game, whereby I would practice restraint and satisfy myself to listen and observe and ask questions, while waiting to be asked and generally exuding an air of amusement and mystery.
When someone did ask me a question, I would happily answer – but I kept it brief and to the point, and refused to fill in silences with extra information; preferring to wait for another question, or else turning the conversation to them.
What you learn real fast playing this game is that the people who want to know you will quickly make themselves known, and the people who DON’T will do just the same.
And wouldn’t you rather know the difference BEFORE you’ve given away all your secrets?
Our stories are precious – they are little gems of meaning that we made ourselves, and sharing them has the potential to connect us to our fellow humans in a way few others things can accomplish so quickly. And yet, storytelling can sometimes feel competitive – as though everyone is jockeying for position in the conversation-scape.
Here's something to try instead: Make a habit of waiting for an invitation before you tell a story. Invitations come in the form of a specific question from a genuinely interested audience who is waiting with baited breath to hear from you.
While you wait, practice embodying the awareness that you are a fascinating person of untold depths, just waiting to be discovered. Or else, focus on discovering the person in front of you.
If you can get comfortable enough in your own skin (and with moments of silence) to allow others the joy of discovery, you will start to effortlessly attract the right people, and your whole world will change.