You’ve set up an appointment to meet someone you don¹t know. You’ve settled on the date, the place, the time, and the topic. And now you’ve got to figure our what you¹re looking for. That is, unless you want to go from person to person saying “are you Sonia?” “Oh. Sorry.” again and again.
It’s that sort of activity that builds humility. Coming up with an accurate description that another person can identify. It’s sort of an all-consuming moment, distilling yourself down to three phrases.
I was meeting Rosa Ringhofer this week. She has served on the Georgian Alumni Board of Directors for seven years, through several jobs, a return to school, a new career, and life challenges. Rosa has remained steadfast and loyal to Georgian and Georgian is rewarding her in return.
And I’m the lucky person who gets to write the story.
We agree to meet in the Georgian College cafeteria at 5 pm. And who are we looking for? This is where the challenge comes in… how to describe oneself to external accuracy.
So I wrote in an email… “I’m a middle-aged woman, with a round face and a big smile. If my smile is really big, my eyes disappear.” Basically I was telling her to look for an old sun! Easy to pick that out in the bustling crowds of hundreds of Georgian students.
So, you try it. It seemed accurate to me.
Then I asked my bookkeeper, Cheryl, how she would describe herself, if she was going to a similar meeting. “I avoid those,” she responded. “I give out my licence plate, car colour and a location.” I pushed. “Okay, well, I’d say I have shoulder length brown hair, dark eyes and I’m slim. I guess I’d say I’m middle-aged. I AM 42, you know.”
If this was a death notice, 42 years would be young! See what I mean? Would I recognize Cheryl? Cheryl with the heart shaped face, the wispy bangs, the fanny pack that’s always around her waist… Cheryl with the quiet, reserved smile. Cheryl with the delicate chin.
Or my web design guru, Kory. He’s the guy that makes donnadouglas.com as effective as I hope it is. So, Kory… how would you describe yourself if we were meeting in a crowded cafeteria… “I’m a short guy with a beard and a great sense of humour.” “I don’t know… my most distinct feature is that I’m short. And I’m heavier than I should be. So I’m a short, stocky guy with a thinning hairline.” Note Kory said nothing about being in his 30’s, about his beard and hair being black, about his crinkly, laughing eyes, about his soft voice.
I tried again. Harmony is the publisher of a national magazine for aboriginal and first nations people. We¹re been working together on some business definition exercises as we look at the full business scope for her project. And how would Harmony describe herself? “I usually say I’m tall, I have brown hair and brown eyes. I’m young. Sometimes I say I’m native. Sometimes I say I’m beautiful.” Harmony says she’s noticed that she meets people once but they often don’t recognize her at their next meeting.
And what do I see? Harmony with the quiet smile. The round face. Laughing eyes. The perfect teeth. Youthful energy with calmness beyond her years. Colourful hair band or poncho.
How about my friend, Adam, the fellow who¹s become second-nature at our house? “I’m tall with dark hair. I’m the one with the looking-for-somebody-look on my face.” That’s Adam’s definitive description of himself, the one I’m to use when seeking him out in a crowd. How about the two huge earrings? How about the green ball cap that is always on top of his head? How about the tattoos? When pushed a bit, Adam continues his thought… “modesty definitely comes into play with these descriptions. I forget about my earrings, but they are pretty noticeable. My tattoos are usually hidden. And really, I’m not too much taller than too many people. Six feet is pretty average for a guy. Hmmm. This is hard.”
It is hard. I think it’s possibly the new dinner party game. In fact, there’s likely a computer game out there that could capitalize on this.
Try it. It’s not as easy as you think.
And so, Rosa Ringhofer, young woman, eager smile, brown hair, full face, querying eyes, confident stance.