“Nice to meet you. It’s a wonderful starry night, have you seen the epic full moon tonight? Do you also enjoy taking photos of colorful sunsets or feel a bit reassured when you spot the moon while walking alone at night? Isn’t being alive and able to witness the beauty of nature such a gift? I get excited and touched just thinking about it.
I thought it was just me being weird or overly sensitive until I took the VIA strengths test and found that my top character strength is ‘appreciation of beauty and excellence’ – did you know that was a thing? My dream is to express this love of life, this feeling of magic through writings and paintings. What is your dream?”
Bam! Instant connection.
While above introduction might seem long-winded and maybe even a bit heavy (depending on the atmosphere and location it might be appropriate or not – although you might even be able to break the prevalent mood if you stand with some confidence). Enthusiasm, curiosity and rawness are contagious. Who wants to spend time talking with a lifeless, boring person?
Whether the other person enjoys sunsets and full moons or not, they will be intrigued. You may or may not connect over last week’s gorgeous pastel colored sunset. In any case, you showed them a bit of your quirks and they might inquire about the strengths test mentioned. Or after some warming up they might share a bit about their hopes and dreams. In any case, it will be a memorable meeting.
Most introductions tend to be superficial and boring. We are afraid of standing out too much and being judged, so we stick to the basics. Why not try a more meaningful introduction next time? Or, if it is an acquaintance, going a bit deeper in your small-talk. You can open up and share a vulnerable point about you (ideally somehow related to the occasion) and spice up the dialogue. Appropriate self-revelation will most likely induce the other person to also share a story of their own and allow a deeper connection.
If you feel you need some guidance, here is a useful tool:
The ‘meaningful introduction’ toolkit
1) out of the provided questions pick a few (3-5) that resonate with you and think of related stories in your life
2) look for patterns/themes in your answers
3) weave the stories/answers together and share your personal narrative with others
4) reflect on your introduction
– did you learn something new?
– was it easy/hard? What parts did you struggle with?
What do you enjoy doing?
What is your greatest achievement to date? Why?
What are your top talents? What do you do best?
How have you overcome challenges?
What valuable insights/strengths/skills have you gained?
What point in your history would you like to relive?
Who has been your mentor/who helped you?
Quotes that inspired you?
What do you get complimented on? What do you feel proud of?
Any turning points in your life?
How did your goals come to fruition?
Currently, what is life’s purpose for you? What do you want?
What are future hopes and dreams? Aspirations?
Vulnerability allows deeper connections
For starters, try writing your own meaningful self-introduction and share it with trusted people. You will learn lots about yourself and gain more confidence about how to be honest and vulnerable with other people and create deeper bonds.
Don’t be scared of opening up first, most people feel like their stories are uniquely weird or uninteresting, resulting in shame or fear of being judged and thus put up unnecessary walls that keep them separated and miserable.
Can you remember a time when you courageously took the first step and people happily followed your example? Sometimes it is up to you to carry the burden of doing it first but after a while you will become more used and comfortable around expressing yourself in a wholehearted way and you will know that most people will not judge you, on the contrary, be relieved to finally to have a chance of expressing their inner selves.
Authenticity and meaningful connections go hand in hand. To express yourself you need to be aware of your strengths, values, dreams and fears first, become comfortable with sharing portions of it with people on the way, knowing that we all share similar joys and pains in life. A bit of vulnerability can spark a deep and thoughtful discussion about a random topic and lead to stronger connections. And aren’t positive, meaningful connections on of the main pillars of a happy, fulfilled life?
The above exercise is a variation of the ‘serious introductions’ (asking students to introduce themselves by telling a story about an event in their lives that showed them at their best as a moral being) described by Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2009). Character strengths: Research and practice. Journal of College and Character, 10(4), p7.
Does vulnerability allow for deeper connections? Check the experiment by Aron, A et al. (1997). The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 23. 363-377.
About the author: Laura is Swiss, living in South Korea. In search of meaningful connections she created Flourishing Seoul, a positive psychology related community in Seoul, where people get together to discuss psychological theories on a variety of topics and help each other in the pursuit of self-improvement and a meaningful life.