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February 29, 2016 9:44 PM   Subscribe

How do I act more like myself at work?

I've been working at the same office for several years now and due to anxiety issues (which are definitely getting better but not gone) I've always been a rather quiet person who keeps to himself. Recently, however, I've attended a few events with coworkers outside the office and they (well, particularly the cute coworker I'd like to get to know better...) seem shocked that I act so different outside the office. And it's true. I do. Partly it's going out for drinks loosens me up, but just generally the person they see outside the office is more the real me than work me is. I'd like to be more like that comfortable and outgoing person at the office too so it doesn't seem like my personality is doing a complete 180 all the time. But it's a struggle that I haven't been able to figure out so far. What can I do to feel more comfortable being myself when at work?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Seek out responsibilities that have you interacting often with your coworkers. You'll bond with them over work itself, and gradually you'll open up more to them because you already share your work lives together. That's the easier way, I think.

Alternately, you could try harder to enmesh yourself in the social goings-on. Ask people out to lunch, go BS in your office-mates' cubes a few times a day.

This is trickier if you don't have the pretense of work to fall back on as a convo topic. It's easier when you have to talk to Frank about his account already, and then hey while I'm here how was your weekend, man? I went and saw this movie. It was kinda lame. Welp, cya later.

That might sound small-talky and lame, but that's how you get to know people. Gradually and bit by bit.

I think most people employ slightly, sometimes drastically, differing work vs. personal life personas. There are more rules at work, so it makes sense that people often keep their guard up a little bit more in the office.

Don't worry about being "yourself".
posted by Team of Scientists at 12:55 AM on March 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

What specifically is the difference? You chitchat more? You move around? You smile? You have a sense of humor? Figure out what's different, then find ways to do that in the office.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:59 AM on March 1, 2016

I don't really see a problem with maintaining a hard line between "work me" and "real me." It can be a mark of professionalism.
posted by yesster at 6:48 AM on March 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

Yesster's right, but to a point; it can become a hindrance if your "work you" persona is:
  • Considerably more reserved than your colleagues,
  • Considerably more reserved than is necessary to be appropriately professional at your job, and
  • Considerably less outgoing than your "real you", to the point of being closed off.
Being able to connect well and authentically with your colleagues is in and of itself a mark of professionalism. Sometimes people with anxiety over-compartmentalize in a counterproductive way because they don't trust themselves to be appropriate. If you keep to yourself to the point that you're not very well enmeshed in the social life of your office, you can and should be a bit more outgoing. The key is maintaining good boundaries and acting appropriately (especially around the colleague you're crushing on), but you've probably got a better handle on that than you give yourself credit for.

As a fellow introvert, I suspect that part of what's really bothering you is that your colleagues are playing into the "it's always the quiet ones" trope, which is annoying and will make you feel more self-conscious about being more outgoing. The only way around that is to shift your baseline work persona - be a bit more chatty, laugh more, be okay with being human.
posted by blerghamot at 8:28 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Try to find quieter spaces where you can interact with one person at a time?
This helps me because i don't deal well with group small talk situations. I try to build one relationship at a time. Once I feel like at least one person 'knows' me, then I start to feel like the real me is actually present, on some level. Then grow your circle by getting to know another person and build it one at a time.
posted by winterportage at 9:45 AM on March 1, 2016

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