Everything you didn't learn in school that will help you survive the world of work. A place for newbies, for working moms, for seasoned professionals and "free agents" to share strategies, tips and tales from the trenches.

May 20, 2006

Secret Identities

In our
last session, we discussed how strange impressions are formed around the office, and why it may be advantageous to let them lie. Miss Bender has recently learned another "fact" about herself that came as a complete surprise, but was greeted with a straight face.

Apparently, Miss Bender was once a med student.
Well, why not.

Part of the skill of maintaining an image as an International Woman of Mystery is to let these chips fall where they may. I don't tell elaborate stories of my days in a labcoat, as if it were true, but I didn't correct it either. I thought I'd find out what I could find out.

I have learned that the reason I took Latin for four years (which is true, and a fact I have volunteered myself as an apologia for my vocabularly -- which includes words like apologia. Why use Saxon when a Latinate will do?) ...the reason I took Latin for four years was to prepare for medical school. uh..huh.

I think this may have started because I did once tell a story that involved my preparation for doctoral school. (Also true. Also ill-advised. Also not the story I am telling.)

No one says "Doctor School." This is not a phrase. But I think that's what people heard.

Here then, are your Bender-style guidelines for creating your own aura.

Just enough backstory: Stick to the story you are telling. This is Miss Bender's general rule anyway. Too often, people provide so much backstory that one loses track of the main plot, and interest in where it is going. Remember Seinfeld's rule of the Yadda: "We went back to my place, yadda yadda yadda, I never saw him again." Besides holding your audience, what it does for your secret identity status is show only small windows of information that when strung together... don't seem to go together at all.

Play with numbers: I had a co-worker who was often referring to "an old boyfriend," in a Stanley Kowalski way ("An old boyfriend of mine was a skydiver..."). Somehow at 30, she'd had a fleet of "old boyfriends." Most of them were actually "old dates," and the remainder were the same guy.

Play with time: Miss Bender is fond of dropping that she saw Elvis in concert, which is true. She was 10 at the time.

Horde skills: If you can actually play ragtime piano, say, save that fact to whip out at the christmas party. In icebreakers, dig deep for the "something about yourself." Never repeat them. And of course... never say more than is required.

Acknowledge your contradictions: The tomboy who knits, the bookish type who is also a skeetshooter, the devout christian who swears like a sailor cause others to think, "well, ya think ya know a person..."

Nod agreeably with the stories others tell: Not only is it polite, it gives them the impression you identify with their story because you have a similar one. When you don't tell it, they decide you are just modest, or "private." You have no such story, but subconsciously, they tell themselves you do.

Remember your "outside obligations." (see previous post). Also a good phrase: "I am expected at home."


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