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Identifying Your Persona: Do You Know How to Answer the Question 'Who Are You?'

Identifying Your Persona: Do You Know How to Answer the Question 'Who Are You?'

Get more information about business degrees at American Public University.

By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management at American Public University

How do you respond when people ask, “Who are you?” Do you define yourself in terms of the work you do? Is your identity tied to your family heritage? Does it take people a long time to get to know the real you and understand the dynamics that make up your persona?

I have sat through training events and observed the responses people gave to that icebreaker question. When participants introduced themselves, they always did so in terms of their jobs or they phrased their answers based on how the questioner responded. I’ve also witnessed the anxiety people feel when they are asked to introduce themselves.

I’ve noticed that when people take the Myers-Briggs personality test, the outcome can be unexpected at times. Some people respond to the questions based on their personal lives, while others answer questions according to their work lives.

Others’ Perception of My Persona Depends upon the Context and Era

Another interesting observation of mine is that people’s perception of my persona is dependent on when and how they met me. For example, if you ask someone whom I grew up with to describe me, her response will be totally different from that of someone who knows me only from work.

Why does that happen? Aren’t I basically the same person, just a more mature version? A logical response from a lifelong friend might be “Sure, she is the same person.” But my co-worker’s response would probably be different because she knows only the “business me.”

My core persona is the same. But the ways in which I present myself are slightly different, based on the circle I’m in at the time. Others’ interpretation of my persona is based on their perceptions and what is going on in their lives at the moment.

I once took a religion course on the Trinity. We spent one class discussing the different roles of Jesus. Regardless of how he revealed himself, he was still the same person. That was an “Aha!” moment for me. I realized that people, including me, are perceived in different ways and fulfill various roles in life.

I Am Multi-Faceted and Have Different Roles Depending on My Situation

Although I am Wesley’s wife, Londyn’s grandmother, Andrea’s sister and Rob’s neighbor, I am Marie, a person with many different roles depending on the situation. I have one life, but multiple roles in it.

What do I do with all of those roles? I enjoy the variety of my life. My activities are different, depending on the day and the environment. (Whew! That’s a relief! I spent less than a minute telling you who I am. No stress involved!)

What makes this introduction different? I wanted to explain to you briefly who I am without:

  • Subscribing to a preconceived notion of what you would expect me to say
  • Defining myself in “compartmentalized” terms
  • Describing myself by my occupation and successes

There’s nothing wrong with those descriptive formats, but they don’t really speak to who I am. Now, if you want some specifics, we can have a conversation about what is going on in my life at that moment. I will tell you a story of what is going on with me now.

Mohit Mamoria, a young writer and entrepreneur, recently wrote an August 2017 article on how to respond to “Who are you?” Here are some highlights that I found to be relevant:

  • All of us are individuals carrying out experiments on ourselves — with the job, with love, with friends, with cities and with risks. Years ago, I invited a lot of my friends to a social function so I could spend some quality time with all of them at once. My thought was that it would be a success because they all had one thing in common – me. I could “facilitate the conversations.” Wrong! The event was a disaster. Although they all were my friends, they didn’t have anything in common with each other. One couple even loathed each other!
  • Everything we do becomes a part of the series of experiments we have been carrying out on ourselves. Although we encounter traumatic events throughout our lives, there are no mistakes. Each experience can be seen as a lesson to learn. Take the bad with the good, and grow from the experience.
  • There are practical reasons to live a life as a series of experiments rather than repeating someone else’s series of successful ones. In a nutshell, you are unique. Why would you try to live to be someone else?

I know of one quote that really puts this topic in perspective. It comes from Roy T. Bennett, the author of “The Light in the Heart.” He said, “Do not let the roles you play in life make you forget who you are.”

So again, I ask you, “Who are you?” Knowing the full answer to that question affects how others perceive you – both in business and in life.

Get more information about business degrees at American Public University.

About the Author

Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.

Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and strong leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.