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“Why on earth would they be discussing me over cocktails and finger foods?” This was my initial thought as I cringed when my friend stated that my name had come up in conversation between she and a mutual acquaintance. Apparently there was a question or two placed on the table next to the beer and wine glasses about how I’m doing personally and professionally, and where I might have room for growth. Had this been a reference check, it may not have come as a surprise. But this wasn’t. This was two friends catching up over cocktails and having a casual conversation – however briefly – about me. Upon learning about this, I became defensive. Without even knowing all that was said, or the context for the inquiry, I was offended. In fact, for some reason, my feelings were hurt.

“Well, what did you say?” I asked. She replied, “I told her that you’ve made great strides in your professional life. Probably the area that I would encourage you to continue working on is your interpersonal relationships. You used to respond to things out of emotion quickly, but you’re working on it. I see growth.” I cringed more as I thought, “What does she mean by that? How could she possibly think – let alone say – that I need to work on my interpersonal skills? Nobody does people skills better than me!” And with that thought, I fully recognized ego. I became sharply aware that my defensiveness was a red flag for personal work.

How can the ‘People-Person’ have trouble with people?

Once again, I was invited to dig deeper and peel another layer to my “onion self.” Here’s the thing: My survival instincts from childhood taught me how to be what I call a shape-shifter. I developed pretty impressive emotional intelligence (EQ) early on, learned how to read a room, and amassed enough acting skills to play to most people’s preferences. Sound manipulative? It is. Well, in my shadow state it is. In my light form, I am a person of positive influence, a persuader, a leader. It is something of a superpower, and I honestly do my best to use my power for good (I promise).

Oh, there’s one more thing. On the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, I am an ENFJ (the Protagonist). Do you know what that means? Many of us are known for being “knowers.” We believe that we know what we know, we stand by what we know, and a good bit of what we know comes from our gut. We are intuitive. We are champions of people with skills and EQ to help them move forward. The bottom line is this: I’ve been moving people like pieces on a checker board my whole life. I didn’t much care for hearing a critique of my skills. This was especially true because I understood this to be a major part of my identity and value as a person. How can the “People-Person” have trouble with people?

I had much to ponder.