Be the you you never wanted to be today!
August 6, 2012 5:55 AM   Subscribe

Boot camp for personality. Put me in 7 unusual situations that boost confidence, character, and charisma.

1 week til the big interview. I want to put myself in 1 crazy (but rewarding) situation per day. Crash a wedding and give an elegant spontaneous toast to the bride? Improvisational yodeling at the beach? Need more like this... (caveat: I work 9-5. Also, I'm in a very large city).
posted by Jason and Laszlo to Human Relations (36 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Walk into a museum and give an impromptu lecture on a work of art. etc...
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 6:12 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Instead of crashing other people's lives, do something useful: donate blood, pick up trash, etc.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:15 AM on August 6, 2012 [21 favorites]

Offer to pay a few people's way into something. The movies, a toll booth, or just putting quarters in parking meters. In the drive thru the other day, the car in front of me bought my coffee. It made my day!

Doing anonymous acts of kindness does wonders for character and for confidence.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:16 AM on August 6, 2012 [7 favorites]

Take a video camera out on a busy street and a giant sign with an innocuous question written on it. Ask people the question over and over.
posted by pwally at 6:17 AM on August 6, 2012

Skip the crazy--volunteer somewhere you wouldn't ordinarily volunteer.

Doing "crazy" things in public will only boost your ability to be a self-aggrandizing asshole.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:25 AM on August 6, 2012 [42 favorites]

Walk ten city blocks barefoot in baby steps (after each step, the heel of your front foot should be touching the toe of your back foot) carrying only a notebook, a pencil and a bottle of water (no money, no wallet, no ID). Every time somebody speaks to you - whether they be random passers by, or drivers shouting abuse at you for taking too long to cross the street, or law enforcement personnel, or anybody - stop, put down the water bottle, write what they said in the notebook, pick up the bottle and walk on. Do not speak.

If you feel moved to, repeat this exercise in multiple cities and blog the notes.
posted by flabdablet at 6:25 AM on August 6, 2012 [5 favorites]

Tell a story, a poem or a joke.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 6:26 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was recently in Minneapolis/StPaul and we went to walk across the Mississippi... we ran into a group of people who had borrowed a projector, and were using it to draw on a big piece of paper and project it onto the side of a building. They called themselves "Make Shit" and invited any passersby to join in (the drawers were not quality, it was just for fun). If you can do something like this without getting arrested, it certainly provides neat entertainment for those who join in and the physical memory of it for you.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:32 AM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nothing skipping the crazy. Especially at a wedding, where you have the potential to ruin what should otherwise be a great day for the couple.

Maybe there is a local Toastmasters you could try?
posted by backwards guitar at 6:34 AM on August 6, 2012

See if a political campaign you like will let you phonebank for one night.
posted by lakeroon at 6:35 AM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

You could always try a Tony Robbins seminar.
posted by thelonius at 6:36 AM on August 6, 2012

Here's the deal, hoss: people who are secure in their self-confidence, character and charisma do not generally do big, Manic Pixie Dream Person-esque public acts that could possibly embarrass/upset/annoy other people. Rather than executing a big public demonstration of your own quirkiness/specialness, seek to develop a quiet inner strength. Do good works and DON'T TELL ANYONE. Harry Houdini - by most accounts, a very upstanding and charismatic fella - said, "When I do good, I don't bring along a brass band."
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:37 AM on August 6, 2012 [47 favorites]

Don't crash a wedding and give a toast to the bride. If you're trying to improve your personality, acting like a jerk isn't going to help.

Try something smaller. Have some conversations with strangers.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:42 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Find an improv class.
posted by postel's law at 6:45 AM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Crash a wedding and give an elegant spontaneous toast to the bride?

Please, no, don't do this. No bride will think such an unplanned curveball on her wedding day is entertaining or lovely. You will be know for the rest of her life as "that asshole who ruined our wedding day" no matter how nice your toast may seem. My daughter is currently planning her wedding next year and the mere thought of someone doing this is absolutely, positively not cool.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:46 AM on August 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I think there's a disconnect between the questions and the answers. Doing nutty stunts doesn't actually take that much inner grit, because the bizarreness of the activity itself kind of provides a distracting shelter that acts against the use of interpersonal skills, rather than in support of them.

Trying to think of things that I think would really put those skills to the test and teach you something in the process:

-Attend a networking event (like a chamber of commerce or green-business networkng night), and set a goal to complete there, such as collecting 10 business cards from people whose businesses you'd never heard of, or pitching your own idea to 5 people.
-Going through a normal day, initiate an extended chat with every employee you do business with - store clerk, bank teller, person on support line on phone.
- Do the same, but instead of just employees, speak to every stranger you pass who's walking solo.
-attend a meetup on a topic totally new to you.
-attend a library book discussion or other discussion group.
-set the goal of raising $300 or so for a specific charity or candidate by the end of the day. Activate your social networks and spend the day appealing to people to contribute to your total. Do whatever you need to do to offer recognitions, premiums, etc. to your donors.
-volunteer to photo-document or video a community event and present the result back in produced form.
-attend a City Council, Planning and Zoning, Historic Commission or other city meeting and prepare a set of comments on an issue from the agenda.

...that kind of thing.
posted by Miko at 6:47 AM on August 6, 2012 [33 favorites]

Begin and maintain a conversation with every person you sit next to on the bus. It should give you a bit of practice at reading and relating to different people. If you want a challenge, try to make every one of them smile at least once.
posted by kisch mokusch at 6:48 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Try standup comedy at an open mic night.

Do a street performance. Try to gather a crowd, entertain them and then persuade them to put money in your hat. Bear in mind that you may need a permit for this and try not to offend other street performers by bagging their spot when they want to use it.

Go and sing at a karaoke night.

+1 everything that Miko said.

Do not crash a stranger's wedding and join in. That's like the opposite of character.
posted by emilyw at 6:48 AM on August 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

Is there a comedy club that holds an open mic night that you could join on short notice?
posted by xingcat at 6:49 AM on August 6, 2012

(emilyw and I are apparently of the same mind.)
posted by xingcat at 6:49 AM on August 6, 2012

Response by poster: Ok everyone agrees no weddings. Got it! (the idea was just to give a spontaneous toast, somewhere).
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 6:51 AM on August 6, 2012

Go to a good clothing store, and chat with other customers. Discuss their clothing choices, and why they like/don't like a particular thing they're trying on. Form some opinions about looking sharp. Buy a new shirt, and feel well-dressed and classy.
posted by aimedwander at 7:02 AM on August 6, 2012

Long term: Do some cool shit. Learn to kiteboard. Play a game really well. Bicycle across the continent. Make a lot of money. Start a program that helps others in a completely new way.

These things will improve your confidence about life.

Short term: Busk for money. Approach women at parties. Sell things with an outrageous manner at a flea market. Play in a punk band. Go to Burning Man. Do improv.

These things will improve your social fearlessness.
posted by 3491again at 7:18 AM on August 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Crash a wedding and give an elegant spontaneous toast to the bride?

I'm not planning any weddings, I'm not particularly traditional or a fan of speeches, and I hope I wouldn't be a Bridezilla type if I did, but this would not end well for you or for me. I am a very nice person, but like Mogwai, you don't want to get my fur wet. This would be like dunking me in a swimming pool and the groom's brothers would have competition.

Some of the things you mention would make me think 'that kid's an asshole' - the equivalent of getting on a train and finding out yoiu're sharing a carriage with a guy who's playing the guitar. Stuntiness and showing off is bad. (There was a guy here who organised a mass moonwalk when MJ died, but not because he wanted to do something cool or make a tribute, but becaus he wanted to be 'that moonwalk guy'. People see through that stuff quickly.) Subtle is good. Anonymous acts of kindness, street performing (you can recite poems and sell them), get really good at something obscure like mimicry, Magic: The Gathering or making macaroons. (Even something that doesn't begin with M.) Volunteer for life drawing classes as a nude model. Do a Dishwasher Pete and make your way across the country via kitchen work, then write about it.
posted by mippy at 7:40 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you should slightly broaden the outlines of your routine, while deepening your experience of the events. Choose a different bar/restaurant than usual and be sure to speak to a few people there. Go to a museum or a show instead of playing laser tag on Saturday. If you usually order takeout from a particular spot, eat it and really notice what is going on there. Take in the sounds, the smells, the walk or drive from your house to the restaurant. Try a different dish than the usual! Take a long walk through your neighborhood. Keep a journal.

This is where I admit that I don't completely understand why you think that 7 days is enough time to build or change character, nor do I understand why you want to undergo such a change. That is, what is lacking about you currently that prevents you from succeeding at this upcoming interview? You don't say. Do you feel boring? Are you shy? Do you have a stutter? Are you not as quick to think on your feet as you'd like? Do you have trouble asking for what you want or need? Do you expect people to not take you seriously? Do you think you're not a nice person? Do you not listen to people?

I can see all kinds of potential skills to to work on for each of these reasons. None that would be perfectly mastered in this time frame you've set, but you could certainly make progress!

You also don't give us any insight about what kinds of activities you have previously found rewarding. Or what the "big interview" is for. New job? News outlet? Something else?

All that said, I've used many skills from DBT therapy to great effect in my life. There is an entire module for "Interpersonal Effectiveness." That module comes after mindulness, because observation skills are very very important to knowing how people are reacting to your actions. I would suggest, spend a few days focusing on what people are actually saying and doing in response to you. During those days, also pay close attention to what is happening around and inside of you.

A small selection of skills and goals from the interpersonal effectiveness section of the workbook that I have in front of me. (in no particular order...)
  • balancing immediate goals with the good of the long-term relationship
  • respecting your own values and beliefs
  • acting in a way that makes you feel capable and effective
    how do I want to feel about myself after the interaction is over?
  • challenging myths about interpersonal effectiveness
  • knowing/finding out if the people around you are able to give you want you want/need. (emphasis mine. sometimes people really just don't have the emotional/physical/authoritative think you need, getting angry won't change it!)
  • knowing/finding out if this is a good time to ask for the thing you want/need
  • ask a salesperson in a store to help you find something
  • ask the manager of a supermarket to order something which you would like to buy but the store doesn't now carry
  • ask a friend for help in fixing something
  • ask a teacher for time to speak to him or her and make a complaint or give a compliment about the class
From there it's a matter of steadily increasing your comfort with these things. Keep in mind, the workbook also has lots of suggestions for saying no to people, but I didn't include that here because it doesn't sound like what you are looking for. So much of life is about speaking up: wanting the room to be warmer, not wanting to eat Chinese food again, needing directions, needing to return a defective item, self promotion for a new job, needing help finding your size shirt. But many people simply don't ask. Whether it's shyness or lack of time, or fear of rejection. Practicing with small, low stakes things does two things. It starts us asking, and it gives us safe experience with being rejected.

I'd like to add that it's not just weddings you should avoid crashing. Other people's lives are not your venue, so to speak. Inserting yourself specifically into important moments, and even many small moments is Inappropriate with a capital I. This includes the advice to hit on women. Please. Don't approach for flirty small talk to practice "hitting on women" unless there is some reason you actually think you want to get to know this particular woman better. She does not exist to serve as your dating skill improvement partner and tricking me into that activity may leave her confused or embarassed.
posted by bilabial at 7:45 AM on August 6, 2012 [13 favorites]

Maybe you should volunteer to help four people and also do four things to clean up the loose ends in your own life.

Volunteer at Habitat for Humanity, a local soup kitchen, a campaign, park cleanup day, and so on. I actually think that the less you use highly systematic programs and the more you find just regular people who need help, the better it'll be.

Then, you could also clean up the loose ends in your life. Clean out your garage. Send that belated thank you note. Apologize for that thing you did. Finish refinishing that piece of furniture. Make a list of loose ends and pick the ones that most scare you but still feel feasible.

Good luck on the interview.
posted by salvia at 7:48 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go to the symphony or the opera. I don't do these things often (and if you do, skip this advice), but live classical music performance on a grand scale always makes me feel inspired, and sophisticated, and generally like a total fucking bad ass.

Nthing what has already been said about public "outrageousness." Vicarious embarrassment from strangers isn't going to help your confidence.
posted by milk white peacock at 8:48 AM on August 6, 2012

To boost your confidence before an interview spend your time researching the company, industry and key competitors. It doesn't matter if its a small non-profit or a Fortune 50 company interview candidates stand out when they are well prepared.

It's not a big splashy look-at-me thing, but knowing you're fully prepared will give you confidence and reduce that uncharismatic panic/flop sweat.

If you want to be confident, be confident because you know your stuff.

Good luck.
posted by 26.2 at 9:06 AM on August 6, 2012 [5 favorites]

Nthing 26.2. Do that.
posted by 3491again at 9:31 AM on August 6, 2012

I like Miko's advice, however, I would encourage you NOT to initiate extended chats with service people like bank tellers or customer service phone agents unless they seem receptive to it- really, unless they initiate it. As someone who has worked many customer service jobs, I have often been put in a position where someone's well-intentioned attempts to chat have seriously stressed me out because they were hurting my service level ratios (for example, I worked at one inbound call centre where your average time per phone call could not exceed five minutes at risk of penalties), causing other customers to wait and become irate, or preventing me from doing some of the other work I had piling up.

I get the feeling that you've seen a lot of movie montages where the protagonist goes through a rapid, amazing transformation and that your question is coming out of that. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way in real life. Trying to do a bunch of wacky things in a short time span won't give you confidence, character, and charisma over the long term. You may find you even get addicted to doing wacky or intense things because those are the specific kinds of situations that you've learned to be vivacious in, but you still get socially awkward at lunch with your coworkers (or whatever the problem is). It's like going on a fad diet and starving yourself for a week- it won't, long term, make you a healthy person at a good weight; you have to change your lifestyle and habits completely.
The thing, too, is that anybody can do something if they know it's just for a week. But character, especially, is about being internally sturdy, about being able to maintain a resolve for longer than that.

All of the suggestions are great! But please, if you want this to work, commit long-term.
Take it slow, small steps, one day at a time. Running around making a spectacle of yourself won't develop those qualities that you want or encourage other people to respect you.

One short-term thing that is a good self-control practise is fasting. For a day, or even a week. It's quite challenging and I would recommend starting with just a day.

Take up a routine of regular excercise, which will help with your physical and mental health and strength.

Eat right for the same reasons.

Practis positive self-talk for the same reasons.

I think, too, that you need to define these characteristics a lot more, or you'll only get the most general of advice. You say you want to be "confident". Well, what does that mean? Confident how? In what situations? What will that entail? What will you be able to do in that situation that you can't yet? What is a confident person like? How will you know when you have achieved this goal? Once you have outlined these specifics, you can make concrete steps to achieve it. Then you can move to the next one- character, maybe. But until you have defined exactly what it is you're trying to achieve, accimplishing it will be like trying to catch smoke; impossible, because it has no form.

I don't suggest that you try to achieve all of them at once; it's too much, and if you're anything like most people, you'll quickly peter out... and feel worse than when you started.

As for the interview- have chamomile tea beforehand instead of coffee, if coffee makes you nervy. Don't try hard to be impressive- it's obvious and inauthentic. And best of luck!
posted by windykites at 9:38 AM on August 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

Find a roleplaying group and go to a gaming session. For serious. If you find a good group, it's like improv, except with dice and a plot.
posted by griselda at 11:00 AM on August 6, 2012

Someone already said it, and it won't help in time for the interview, but: Burning Man.
posted by Amplify at 12:00 PM on August 6, 2012


too scared to do it myself
posted by ghostbikes at 1:13 PM on August 6, 2012

Take care of business. You probably have a backlog of stuff you should have done, if you're like me and most people. Do it. Mend the tap, replace the light bulb, go to the bank, return the library book from 1999, call that person that you never called back last month, back up your computer. Do the most intimidating stuff you can.

And then walk in to the interview feeling like the kind of hyper-organised mofo that you would expect to get that job.

It will show.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:08 PM on August 6, 2012

Man, even your first reply ("a spontaneous toast") shows that you're still looking for goofy ways to mimick Improv Everywhere. It may amuse you, but think of the person you're toasting; I would probably thing "You do not know me and are making assumptions based on my appearance to pander to me, stop trying to act like my best pal." Doing big, silly things will only help you to do big, silly things.

Go to a fund-raising event for a church or something and talk to people there. Ask them honest questions, don't rely on stereotypes, and listen to what they're saying without making a bunch of jokes.
posted by Turkey Glue at 9:37 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

This LiveStrong article has some great starting points.

Karaoke may be the ticket in this post by Dr. Oz.

kanaan minks
posted by kanaan_minks at 11:48 PM on August 8, 2012

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