Cultivating Your Outgoing Personality in New Work Environments

Jessika Anspach & me (as Puck) getting ready for A Midsummer Night's Dream at PNB
Dancer's personalities come in all shapes and forms. While most dancers have some degree of an outgoing personality onstage, it doesn't always equate to the same thing offstage. As a freelancer, you are constantly thrust into new situations where you may have to step out of your comfort zone, especially when interacting with people. Many times this means that you are entering a new environment every few weeks. With new work situations come new relationships, which also means you will need to reveal your true self more quickly than you would with a full-time position. This is necessary to make a personal connection and more memorable impact. If you don't have a naturally outgoing disposition or struggle with opening up quickly, how does one make this lifestyle of eternal transition and never-ending relationship cultivation comfortable?

I've always been pretty lucky that I was practically born with a knack for interacting with people. As I have gotten older, I have honed this in to a slight degree. But for the most part, I am genuinely interested in getting to know new acquaintances and have developed skills to make a memorable impression quickly. As I've gotten older, though, I find that I tend to shy up the first few days of a new gig as I assess the circumstances that I am entering.

Performing in my work "Gated Lies" (Photo: Bill Hebert)
When I first started tightening up, it caught me off guard. Somebody would talk to me and all of a sudden I would be stumbling over my words. Or everybody would be cracking jokes in the studio and I'd be quietly sitting in the group laughing like a lady in an old-school etiquette class. When I have noticed that I am shying up, I've found that there are a few techniques I can use to let my true outgoing personality come out.

When I'm feeling particularly shy, the first thing that locks up is my voice. Either my relentless stream of words stop flowing out of my mouth (I am infamous for my ability to fill dead air) or I can't seem to raise the volume of my voice. I'm not positive of the reasoning behind this, but my assumptions fall in the range of being afraid to overstep the unique social boundaries of my new workplace through to being consumed by my assessment of the multitude of new people and situations surrounding me. What ends up happening is that I can't seem to tie one string of thoughts together from the five floating around in my head.

Essentially, what it comes down to is that I am likely experiencing sensory overload. I think this happens with many people who have issues with an unwanted stifling of their personality in new environments. In these situations, I will try to eliminate some of the noise in my head and focus on one thing at a time. Or I try to remind myself that every workplace has a particular social order. In entering that new environment, I can't walk on eggshells in fear that I may overstep my boundaries. I rarely do break workplace culture. And when I have actually done so, people are very understanding and forgiving as long as I learned quickly and was genuine in my error.

Another time when I have felt myself pulling back has been when there is another dancer in the room with a larger-than-life personality. This is the type of dancer that cracks all of the really funny jokes or who always needs to be the center of attention. When this happens, I'd rather let that person take control than duke it out for the social spotlight. In reality, I'm only successful at being funny about 10% of the time (depending on your humor) and I feel people appreciate me for many of my other qualities. So, when I find my outgoing self being stifled by one of these personalities, I tend to step into the shadows and enjoy the show or move on to a quieter place to focus on the many tasks that I probably have in my new environment. Essentially, if you find yourself in a similar situation, you need to choose whether to be a part of the act, a part of the audience, or to pass your ticket to someone else and skip out on the show.
Me stress? Never! (w/Elizel Long - Photo: Gutierrez Photography)
One of the most stressful parts of revealing your personality at a new gig can often be that you need to be on at all times. Unless you are in a hotel room by yourself, you have to be on in the studio, in the dressing room, in your host family's house, or with your roommate. It doesn't matter how outgoing you are, if you don't have some quiet time to yourself, you will likely find your personality shutting down when you least expect it. To combat this, I will take some quiet time to myself. In order to avoid situations where I am resting and somebody unintentionally interrupts my moment , I tend to find myself eating lunch, dinner, or sitting at a coffee shop all by my lonesome. When I take some me time, while I'm not in the comfort of my own home or at a regular workplace, I get a better sense of self returning back to me.

I don't always find that I lose certain aspects of being outgoing from gig to gig. But it can be stressful to watch your true self be stifled and take a back seat when there are tons of artistic personalities oozing out of each person in the room. While this isn't always true, I do find that directors tend to have a magnetic attraction to dancers who can hold the attention of an entire studio with a smile, wink, or laugh. It can be stressful entering new work environments regularly. And nobody needs the additional worry of fading into the background or appearing uninteresting or disingenuous. Making a memorable impression is important because you want to stay on employers radars for future work and opportunities. If you find yourself feeling or acting shy, stop thinking so much, show people you are generally interested in their particular environment, and take some time for yourself to rest and recharge your social battery.

No comments:

Post a Comment