It seemed like a simple enough exercise, so I stood up and went to the front of the room.
“Who are you?” shouted the group, in a seemingly respectful manner.
“I am a leadership development coach,” I proudly replied.
“No,” responded a gentleman from the front row, “We didn’t ask what you do, we asked, who are you?”
“I’m Greg,” I said, a bit confused now.
“No, that’s your name. Who are you?” said the woman with bright red hair from the back.
“Um, I’m a 56-year-old man?” My response was more of a question, as I looked for some kind of indication of what they were after.
Another woman from the back jumped in. “We didn’t ask about demographics, we asked, who are you?”
The group seemed to be getting agitated with me now.
“Ah, let’s see, I’m someone who hates this exercise right now,” I joked, totally lost.
An older man stood up and approached me in front of the group. He smiled and softly said, “Yes, I can see you are uncomfortable, but who are you?”
“I’m frustrated, that’s who I am. Who are you?” I shot back.
“No, this is about you,” said a bald man in the second row. “Who are you?”
I could see that they weren’t going to let up. I needed a different response.
“I’m vulnerable, I’m confused. I need some guidance here,” I pleaded.
“So, then who are you?” said a young man from the front row.
Okay, I thought to myself, I can figure this out. “Who do you want me to be?”
“Who are you?” shouted the group, clearly getting impatient.
I shook my head in desperation. “I am a loving, honest, and caring person—that’s who I am!”
Suddenly, all 40 participants were cheering and clapping. “Yes! Now you got it!” I looked up in surprise, like I had just discovered I held the winning lotto ticket.
I smiled and headed back to my seat, high fiving everyone on my way. I glanced at the man sitting next to me and said, “Wow, that was a lot harder than I imagined.”
He put his arm around me, “Yes, but you did it! Nice job.”
So, Who Are You?
We think we know ourselves, but do we really? Whenever I’ve done that exercise with a group, the responses, much like in my story above, always start out with titles, roles, responsibilities, and any other external traits that people can come up with to define who they are. Why is that? In my opinion, it’s because many of us haven’t taken the time, nor allowed the time, to do more in-depth analysis of who we are, let alone being able to put that definition into words.
Does it matter?
Yes! It really matters because when we allow our titles, roles, and responsibilities to define who we are, we narrow our essence down to labels. We all are much more than our name, or profession, or marital status. Those descriptors may paint us on the outside, but they certainly don’t define who we are on the inside.
So, who am I, you ask?
I am a passionate and caring man committed to living, loving, laughing, and learning—and helping others do the same!
Yep, that’s who I am.
And who are you?
* From Geese’s new book, It’s All About Me: Stories and Insights from the Geese