Free Trait Agreements with Yourself

Every now and then a client says they don’t want me to change who they are.  

The implication is that any “stage” behaviors I recommend that are outside their comfort zone will make them feel artificial and, therefore, less effective.

I understand how they feel, so I try to focus them on the logic of their content. I do this because passion is grounded in logic, and passion is often what they’re lacking.

So when they continue to have trouble bringing their message to life, I may ask, in response to their desire to be themselves, “What if your self is distracting, or having difficulty keeping people focused? Do you still want to stick with it?”

And then I tell them about Brian Little, a psychologist and Professor at Harvard who does research into human personality.

He says that we have two types of traits.

  1. Fixed traits, which are those habits of being we are comfortable living in every day, and
  1. Free traits, which are those modes of being we are willing to stretch into for life projects that are important to our deepest values.

For instance, Little cites himself–a highly introverted person–who, in order to do his job as a professor, acts like an extrovert in order to deliver his lectures.

He does this because he knows his teaching career depends on his ability to give good lectures.

He also says that after his lectures, in order to recover from the stress of operating in the zone of his free traits, he retires to his office and lies down on his couch for a few minutes.

He calls this his free trait agreement with himself.

I believe we can awaken the inner speaker in everyone. It may take time. It may be frightening, and we may fall on our faces now and them.

But if we persist, we will each grow in our own unique way. We will grow in knowledge, skill, and confidence.

Presenting and public speaking are powerful tools of influence and persuasion. They also foster professional and personal growth.

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