The social chameleon

In nature, the chameleon has the ability to blend with its surroundings.  With this ability the chameleon is able to convince other animals that it belongs in that place, they become part of their surroundings and are hard to notice.  If you met me my freshmen year you would probably agree that I was a chameleon that would turn bright yellow when trying to hide in a tree.  I was afraid to interact with my surroundings, especially in a social situation.  I stood out like a sore thumb because I was uncomfortable interacting with people that I didn’t know.  People who meet me now would be surprised to hear that I was ever afraid to interact with someone I didn’t know.

Being an outdoor education facilitator has been a large part of the process which helped me become more of a social chameleon.  As a facilitator your job is to give a group of people, who you likely know no one in, a positive experience and teach them about things like leadership and teamwork.  Through the process of learning to be a facilitator and a leader, and practicing by working with groups consistently, I have become comfortable talking to and leading groups of people that I know little to nothing about.

This skill also transferred into my personal life and my interactions with people around me.  I realized that, in facilitation, people are more likely to go along with what you want them to do and have enthusiasm if you make them feel comfortable around you, if you blend into the group.  My style of making people comfortable and able to trust me is by building a friendly relationship with them.  Facilitation gave me opportunities to work on this skill to the point that I was eventually able to apply it to my personal life.  I used to be nervous leading a group, but I eventually was able to turn my nervousness into enthusiasm which in turn made me look more confident in my job and created a more comfortable environment with the group I was working with.

Recently I was asked to give a presentation to a group of Lockheed Martin employees about some of the work that I had done.  Needless to say I was nervous.  However, after the presentation was over I was complimented on my enthusiasm and ability to interact with the employees that were asking questions.  These skills were cultivated by my experiences through my job as a facilitator.  I not only had the opportunity to develop these lessons and skills, but I was able to do it while working at a job that I was happy to show up to every time. ​

By: Ryan Wiese