Communication Tips: Swimsuit Edition
Swimsuit shopping. Ugh. Finding the right suit can be such a chore. I usually look for one that covers my wobbly bits, but that also suits (ha!) my personality—you know… fun, classy, and bold enough to attract attention without being obnoxious.
It takes some searching, but usually I can find a fabulous, stylish suit that covers up everything a swimsuit can possibly cover. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my body and all the wrinkles, stretch marks, and general flappiness… Hey, I earned those by bringing two darling little girls into the world. Yet I don’t feel the need to share those flappy, wrinkly parts with all creation either.
But am I being “inauthentic” by covering up my jiggly skin?
Of course not. No one goes through life exposing his or her entire body or personality to everyone all the time. Let’s hope not, anyway.
We cover up or expose ourselves to varying degrees based on where we are (social norms), who we’re with (level of relationship), and how comfortable we feel in our own “skin” (personal choice). If you want people to be receptive to you and your message, you need to make them feel comfortable with you. How? Bring your true, real self to the interaction, while respecting the unspoken rules that govern it.
Where you are dictates how informal and personal you can be. For example, my favorite swimsuit is pretty modest as far as beachwear goes, but it’s still a swimsuit. It would not be acceptable attire in a church or courtroom. What is “modest” in one context is considered “revealing” in another. If you’re too personal, overly revealing, or inappropriately informal when you’re in a professional environment—not only with attire, but body language, word choice, and facial expressions, too—people will be less receptive to you. You’ve broken the unspoken rules.
My high school choir director used to drill us on Stage Presence. “When you’re up on stage singing,” he’d tell us, “your hands stay by your side. I don’t care if your nose starts to itch so bad you think it will explode. Don’t touch it.” Why? Is it morally reprehensible to scratch your nose when it itches? Of course not. But when you’re on stage, it’s a distraction. Keep your itchiness to yourself; don’t display it for everyone to see. It detracts from the performance. If you want to come across as professional and competent, there are certain details of your personality and life (and itchiness) that you keep to yourself.
Just as context dictates how much of myself I can or should reveal, so does relationship. My husband gets all of me, for example—wrinkly, jiggly bits and everything. He is well acquainted with all my most unattractive parts—both physically and emotionally.
When you share yourself with others, you communicate that you want a deeper, closer relationship. That makes it safe for the other person to share him or herself, too. When the desire for intimacy is reciprocated, receptivity soars. But if you overshare when it’s unwelcome, the other person feels uncomfortable and the relationship can be damaged. If the goal is good communication in a safe environment, check frequently on how open and receptive others seem.
All of this, though, is tempered by personality and choice. I tend to be reserved and warm up gradually to others. I prefer a fun swimsuit that covers me up. Some people, on the other hand, are an open book. Regardless of body shape and size, they are comfortable in a bikini.
When I find a good swimsuit, I love it! Wearing it feels great. I am comfortable in it, because it aligns with my personality and my sense of decorum.
If you never temper yourself for the sake of the situation you’re in or the people you’re with, you come across as obnoxious and irritating. On the other hand, if you hide your true self and never “show up” to life, communication and relationships stagnate. Good communication is all about sharing yourself in a way that’s respectful toward others, and helping others feel comfortable enough to do the same.
Finding that balance is tricky, but the results of can be life-changing. Kinda like finding a great swimsuit.