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Do You Talk to Strangers?

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February 26, 2019

Hey << Test First Name >>,

Hopefully. What better way is there to make new friends?  Every week, we create space for strangers to talk to each other.  And, it’s pretty fun.

When I think about that question, I am immediately transported back to the childhood warning: “don’t talk to strangers”.  This admonition made perfect sense at the time.  Strangers could have ulterior, even nefarious, motives.  We are conditioned to distrust things that are unfamiliar or don’t belong.  We’re conditioned to look for imposters.

Yet, when we become adults, the kind of adults that start and lead companies, we often become the strangers in our own minds.  In unfamiliar environments, when we experience success, when our ventures grow, or we land in the position of our dreams — it’s under those circumstances webecome the imposter.

From syndrome to self-selecting out of opportunities, this week we’re talking all things imposter.   

One of these things is not like the other. Are there folks in your organization who clearly stand out as the “one [insert distinguishing factor].”?  Are you that One?  The burden of being the sole representative of a particular group is heavy.  As we think critically about work or community environments we curate or design, do recognize that such spaces are fertile breeding ground for imposter syndrome. Let’s be mindful to avoid singling out or excluding the unfamiliar.  While a default reaction might be to hope those flying solo will naturally fit in on their own, take action to include those who might gravitate toward the sidelines.  We can design for belonging or exclusion.  It’s a choice.

I think, therefore I am.  Much like movie Inception, imposter syndrome attempts to blur the division between perception in reality:

If you don’t fight the urge, imposter syndrome can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you don’t believe me, see what the expert psychology studies say. In the recent HBR article, Mentoring Someone With Imposter Syndrome, W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith offer several techniques to combat this negative self actualization. From normalizing the experience, to contradicting assumptions with empirical evidence, to external encouragement, and more— talking to the stranger inside might be the key to fully experiencing the fruits of your success.


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