Why seriousness does not work for me
I have reached that moment of adulthood when most of the things that happen trigger in my mind a sense of self-awareness and deep analysis of past experiences and anecdotes. So maybe this space will have a lot of those introspection stories.
It is fun to see how sometimes I feel like one of those movie characters that have voice-over moments where they come to conclusions or have epiphanies while they are taking a shower or sitting in the train.
I had one of those moments yesterday.
But I need to go back a little first, to my eighth semester in the university. When I took the class “Multimedia Information Systems”. On my final semester review with the teacher, I was suffering, I was getting a very mediocre grade with a teacher who was awesome. So I felt super small, dumb, irresponsible and not worthy of anything (leave it, I was a twenty-something drama queen). And then, in the middle of the review, she gave me a piece of advice. She said, “Stop with all the giggling and the constant jokes, it will always make you look less professional, and people will most likely not take you seriously”. Ok, wait, I have to go back a bit more, this is starting to feel like an HIMYM story.
So since the beginning of time, I’m, by nature, by design, by default, a very very giggly person. I’m always making stupid jokes and, even more stupid faces, even at work; like the day I dropped a perfectly timed “That’s what she said!” in the middle of a very serious meeting. Ok, you have context now, back to the university story.
It was a bit of a shock; I always saw that as a normal trait of my personality and did not think of it much, if some people can have resting bitch face, I am perfectly able to have a resting clown face. A little later on, my aunt (who was my boss at the moment) also complained about the same. “This is some serious thing”, I thought — “What if I lose a job, or even a job opportunity because of this??”. And I’m sure it may have happened, I’ve felt the “not funny people allowed, thanks for coming” vibes on several job interviews (the good thing is I’ve never been kicked out of a job for laughing to much).
Still, I am usually not one to take advice, whether good or bad. I just do things my way and adjust during the path. So, I have been doing that all my professional life. Of course, I’m serious when I need to be serious, but I still make jokes. I still find the perfect opportunity to drop a funny phrase, and still make funny faces and usually try to use a little humor during meetings.
And guess what. IT WORKED. How do I know that? Facts man, FACTS. During my yearly review, my career manager exposed me to the feedback I got from my peers, and I quote:
Everyone in the team seems to genuinely like her and respect her.
That’s good, is something you expect from any employee. It was not something expectable on someone like me, who is a clown though — I mean, according to teachers, past bosses and potential employees. No biggie there, BUT:
She’s also very smiley when you work with her and that’s a good thing to have for hard times in big projects. It’s a matter of spending some time with her to start feeling the good vibes of this awesome Business Analyst.
That was a big surprise. I mean, long ago I made the decision to continue being like this, is how I like to be, I enjoy making jokes and laugh even at horrible and boring situations. It is how I cope. Some people are serious, some people become serial killers, some people scream, some people cry, I make jokes, and it does not hurt anyone. It may be annoying for some, specially for the old-schoolers who think you cannot mix work and a nice laugh. But not for me. Being a serious and “centered” person never worked for me, and I was plainly miserable when I tried to do that.
So, taking into account how some people in my life (and even me at some point) thought it was a trait that would never be useful in my professional life and much less be something that my team mates see as soothing in a way, it feels great.
It is great to know that not only I feel I have learned a lot since the first time I said, “Hey, someone in this place needs to be in charge of the f*cking requirements” and became a business analyst. It also feels good to know that I have managed to balance and use to my advantage something that was seen as bad and useless and turned into an attractive soft skill.
The conclusion of all this story is that there is no general way to approach a role in a company or life in general. The key is to always find the balance, and exploit at a maximum everything that you see works for you.