Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal.

When I go from hence
let this be my parting word,
that what I have seen is unsurpassable.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

…so tell me something about yourself

I have never been comfortable talking about myself. That is one (of many) of my problems. It is very inconvenient really. Every where I go - parties, dates, job interviews, chat rooms, social networking sites - everyone seems to want to hear me speak about myself. It has become standard filler in any conversation these days. I will be chatting merrily with someone I have recently met when suddenly there is a pause in the conversation and I know its coming. And sure enough, the other person will come up with some variation of “…so tell me something about yourself”. What do I tell anybody about myself? Which parts of my personality should I present? I have been in this planet for almost three decades now. There are a lot of parts to me. Which parts would interest you? Are you even interested? And above all, why on earth would I want to discuss myself with you? It used to be a lot easier when I was a kid. Back then they used to ask very specific questions like “what is your name beta?” followed by “how old are you?” followed by “which school do you go to?” and so on and so forth. At the end of the Q&A session I used to get a pat on the back. Now, people - polite and well-mannered as they are - will not even think about interrogating me like that. Its far easier for them to ask the vaguest question possible and let me handle the details. Believe me, I would take the interrogation any day over this. The opening sentence is the biggest stumbling block. How do I start talking about yourself? I can’t start off with “My name is…” because, obviously, the guy already knows that. After many missteps, I have come up with some strategies for the most common situations. Here are some openings:

Job Interview: "I am currently working on...". Start of with what you are doing now (proffesionally). Present the major points in your career in reverse chronological order, i.e., latest first. Stick to dates and numbers. Don't try analyze or explain anything. If the other person wants to know details, he/she will ask. Stick to your professional life only. You personal life is irrelevant here.

Social occasions: "I am from...". If you have already told him/her your name, this might be a good opener. You can then go on to mention you profession, etc. Stick to basics. If the other person is really interested, he/she will help you along with specific questions or comments. If not, you can throw the ball right back at him/her by returning him/her the same question. But in social occasions, it all really depends on the mood. I went to a meeting of car enthusiasts once. Everyone was introducing himself with the his car details - "Hi, one Honda, model xxx, yyy years old". It was funny.

Online chats: "Hi, I am xxx, from yyy". Always use your username, not your real name. Never offer anymore details. Don't even mention the area of the city you live in. You never know who is at the other end.

Most importantly, don't ever ramble. This is true for all situations. The person asking you this question does not know you. He/She probably wants a glimpse of specific aspects of you. Rambling will kill all interest he/she has in you.

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