Last week, you may remember that I blogged about finding common ground and encouraged you to share a broad surface of who you are to enable people to find that common ground with you and increase the amount of opportunities that come your way.
One question I often get asked, however, is whether there are subjects you should keep to yourself or shy away from. The limitations on what information is sharable seems to be a gray area for many people.
My belief is simple: Always stay true to yourself. What you share should always be a reflection of who you truly are, what you believe, and how strongly you believe in it.
The reason I recommend that you be more open in sharing your interests and passions, is because you are opening the floodgates for people to find common ground with you. As we have learned, they will like you more for it.
Sometimes people feel compelled to hold back because they fear that if someone does not resonate with one of their passions or interests, it will have a negative impact on the way they are perceived.
Typically what will happen in a case where someone finds an interest that they do not share in common with you is that they will have a neutral or passive reaction. For example, if a person does not share the passion for golf that you have, they will register the word “golf” in a somewhat automated fashion. In other words, it simply won’t get their neurons firing.
Pretend that you are a recreational bike rider, you ride your bike leisurely, mostly just to get some exercise and take in the scenery. You come across someone on about.me who mentions one of their passions is competing in triathlons. Would your immediate thought be, “He competitively runs, swims, and bikes in one day? He must be a terrible person and I am disgusted by him? I’m going to guess that your reaction would be far more passive:. “Hmm, interesting, I wonder what drives him to do that?” is probably more like it. However, it is most likely that you won’t even think about it.
One major caveat: When you begin to cross over into areas that can elicit very visceral, negative reactions from people, you may encounter problems. Societal conventions have taught most of us that polarizing topics, like politics and religion, are off-limits. Even though many of our social media feeds may seem absolutely encumbered by these very topics, it might be optimal for you to simply steer clear of them on about.me.
There is one exception: If you’re polarizing views are such an integral part of who you are that you would rather find common ground with people who also resonate with those topics, then share away. Keep in mind that this is likely to result in a sacrifice of the potential connections you might make with people who will have a very adverse reaction to your stance. But that might not be bad at all. You may also find even more happiness by not having them in your life at all.
If you simply don’t care about the reactions of others on these polarizing topics, it is safe for you to share this information because those people who do are likely to develop an extremely strong connection with you will do so right away.
The bottom line is, share what feels true to you, but always have the awareness around what others may find offensive. If you are mindful of that, the benefit of sharing more information is likely to outweigh the costs in most cases.
Acknowledging that women often have a different experience when it comes to likeability, as eloquently pointed out in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, I’ve written a blog post with some ideas on how to overcome it to find common ground.