I am making an effort to act the way I want to be perceived. I was at a library association luncheon today, which gave me the opportunity to put this into practice. Usually, when confronted with a big room of people I don’t know well, my instinct is to stick close to the wall, look around wildly and hope someone wants to come talk to me. I am great in a small group of people I know well, but big ones like this bring out all of my worst social anxiety. Of course, no one wants to go stand by the panicked-looking lady in the back of the room. Particularly when I also tend to be a complainer when they do come over. In the past, when a fellow librarian has asked how I like my job, I have had ready a handy list of the 100 things I hate about working here. I can hear myself saying all these negative things and can see those nice souls start to squirm and look around for a good way to escape from listening to my list of gripes, and yet I seem powerless to reign in my own stupid mouth.
Today, I psyched myself up beforehand. I sat at a table where there was another person, rather than slinking off on my own. I had prepared a list of things I do like about my job, and I mentally kicked myself to focus on those. My mantra for the day was NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR YOU COMPLAIN. These are professionals that love their jobs, and furthermore might be on hiring committees where I apply in the future. I don’t want them to remember me as Ms. Negativity, the sucker of all joy in librarianship. I want them to think of me as the positive person they might like to have on their team. I can’t help having an acerbic wit, but I can hone in conversation to strengths and opportunities, and if all else fails, change the topic to something neutral. I ended up chatting a lot about weather with a fellow Michigander and someone from Indianapolis, and about how good it is to help those students on the wrong side of the digital divide to step into the computer age. I came away feeling like I’d connected, rather than having put up barriers. I even asked about opportunities to get more involved in the association, where I can really show off my skills and make friends. I think it went well.