One of the lessons I frequently teach to new students is one which I call, “Packaging.” I tell them that I have a gift to give them, and ask which they would prefer to receive. I have one which is contained in a neatly wrapped gift box, and another in a crumpled old brown bag, which I suggest looks like “yesterday’s lunch.” As you might imagine, most students indicate they would rather receive a gift which is packaged neatly and professionally (although there is typically one student in every class who figures there must be a “catch,” and identifies they would rather have the other gift).
After they’ve indicated their preference, I reveal that both presents, although packaged differently, contain the same “gifts.” Inside each, I have note cards on which I’ve written various “gifts” which we all have to give (friendship, forgiveness, time, talents, affirmation, material goods, etc.).
My point is that we all have a tendency to “judge” the packaging of a gift to determine whether or not we want the gift. The same is true for people and the “gifts” (personality traits, talents, and other resources) we have to offer to others. People are more likely to want to access our many gifts if our “packaging” is neat and professional, rather than seeming like “yesterday’s lunch.” Our packaging is comprised of our hygiene and personal appearance, our manners and mannerisms, our body language, the things we do and say, our voice volume, our language (and whether it’s appropriate), our respect for others, etc. Our packaging is essentially how we “present” ourselves to others, and plays a major role in whether people will readily give us opportunities to share our gifts with them.
Our packaging affects opportunities for friendship, employment, joining conversations, participating fully in social activities like sports and clubs, getting excellent service at restaurants and other businesses, and more. While there are laws reducing discrimination, the reality is that typically, the better our packaging is, the more we will be able to fully access opportunities such as these.
The good news is that there is much we can do to ensure that our packaging appeals to others like a neatly wrapped gift! Our web site contains many recommended resources for teaching skills for social effectiveness.
Best wishes as you “present” yourself to the world this week. May you have many opportunities to share your “gifts” with others!