For my write-up today on Richard Nixon’s 1962 book Six Crises, I’ll quote what Nixon says on page 344 about his preparation for the 1960 Presidential debates:
“I followed my usual practice of reading as widely as possible and of listening to as much advice as I could cram into my crowded schedule. But in the final analysis, I knew that what was most important was that I must be myself. I have seen so-called public relations experts ruin many a candidate by trying to make him over into an ‘image’ of something he can never be. I went into the second debate determined to do my best to convey three basic impressions to the television audience—-knowledge in depth of the subjects discussed, sincerity, and confidence. If I succeeded in this, I felt my ‘image’ would take care of itself.”
Do I buy into the notion that people will like me if I just be myself? Well, yes and no. Perhaps there are areas in which I should not just be myself, but should behave according to what is considered to be socially appropriate. But there are also areas in which I can’t be anyone other than myself. In my opinion, there is a place for me being at peace with myself, for me being comfortable with who I am and how I am, and for me capitalizing on my strengths.
I also thought of Sarah Palin when I read that passage in Six Crises. Nixon was good at facts and figures, but he was not as good in terms of personal skills (or such is my understanding). Palin, however, was not as good at facts and figures, but she had charisma. Should she have crammed her head with facts and figures in preparing for the 2008 Vice-Presidential debate? That may not have helped her, for she wouldn’t have come across as glib and as confident as she did. It would have been nice had she conveyed a deeper understanding of the issues, however. And, if she did not have that, she probably shouldn’t have been picked to be John McCain’s VP candidate. Sure, people should not be expected to be something that they’re not. But jobs should have qualifications, for people do jobs better when they are qualified for them.