“Tell me something about yourself..”

You’ve probably heard this a number of times, coming from an interviewer or a date or somebody you just met. For some of you, the answer is easy. You can probably ramble on about yourself as if you’ve been practicing for that very moment.

And for some of you, maybe it’s difficult talking about yourself. The reasons can be one (or more) of many:

  1. You don’t like being the center of attention
  2. Talking about yourself feels like self-promotion
  3. You assume nobody’s buying your story

These apprehensions are justified, but when someone wants to connect with you, or gauge you as a person, or even wants to hire you, talking about yourself becomes essential. In simpler words, your future with the person talking to you depends on you effectively talking about yourself.

So, how do you go about navigating your fears?

  1. Do You Hate Being the Center of Attention?

In a social setting, being the center of attention makes you feel uncomfortable – you blurt out a few incoherent words every now and again and immediately push the spotlight away. You wish you could handle all those eyes focused on you, but you just can’t.

Believe it or not, the solution is simple. Just get comfortable. This sounds like obvious or bad advice, but it really isn’t that hard:

  • Get comfortable by moving the conversation to something you know: If we know and love something, we can talk about it for hours on end. Relating the conversation to your experiences makes you more comfortable talking about yourself.
  • Ask questions: Sometimes, it’s difficult moving the conversation to your interests. So, try driving the discussion by asking questions relevant to your knowledge about the subject. This keeps you constantly engaged, and when it comes to you, you know what you’re going to say.
  1. Does Talking About Yourself Feel Like Self-Promotion?

Job interviews require you to talk about your experiences, accomplishments and professional skills without sounding too self-involved. Meanwhile, in social circles, you can come off as boastful and narcissistic if all your stories involve you being the greatest person alive. Is this what you’re afraid of?

Remember this: Talking about yourself always involves some form of self-promotion. What matters is how you handle it.

  • Consider the context: Who are you talking to? Modify your story according to the situation. With friends, it’s okay going overboard, because they’ll understand. With an interviewer, or with people at a networking event, always keep it straightforward and to the point, without letting your story wander off.
  • Embrace your accomplishments: A braggart will always try to show he/she is better than everybody else. Don’t be that person. Be prepared to listen, and embrace your accomplishments for what they are. As long as you’re truthful and real in your self-promotion, you’ll be fine.
  • Involve other people: If you fear coming off as self-centered, involve other people in your story. For example, when talking about how you became a writer, talk about how your parents encouraged a reading habit in your childhood, and why that made you choose this line of work. This shows that you value good relationships, and that you’re unselfish and empathetic about your past.
  1. Do You Assume Nobody’s Buying Your Story?

This fear is quite common when you’re appearing for job interviews. You assume the recruiter thinks you’re making it all up to get a steady paycheck. And they are not buying it. But that’s just not true.

Until the recruiter can put a face and a voice to your resume, you’re little more than a piece of paper to them. An interview is a way for recruiters to assess your credibility and passion for the job. So, what do you do?

  • Be as straight-forward as possible: Tell them why you’re an excellent candidate for the position, without putting any of the other applicants down.
  • Talk about your best qualities AND your drawbacks: Be precise in your explanation. Interviewers like candidates that are self-aware and can elaborate on their strengths as well as their weaknesses.
  • Prepare beforehand: Extensively practice answering questions that are sure to stump you in an interview, well before you appear for it.

Like it or not, talking about yourself is an integral part of your professional and personal life. Don’t shy away from it. Embrace who you are, embrace your accomplishments and embrace the fact that you’re unique, and you’re sure to be rewarded.