Match your words and personality
I have three core groups of people in my life; close friends, acquaintances, and professional colleagues. Each of these groups sees and appreciates me for different aspects of my personality, behaviour and conversation. And like most people, they fluctuate across each group, depending on what ‘mood’ I’m in and what I need to achieve at any particular time or with any particular person.
If I was to ask each group to describe my personality and typical behaviour, I believe this is how they’d respond;
- Close friends = introvert, anxious, friendly, honest, fun, caring, thoughtful, deep
- Acquaintances = extrovert, fun, highly-strung, shocking/outrageous, slightly unstable
- Professional colleagues = confident, untouchable, fair, tough, edgy, fun
I’ve always had the ability to flip my behaviour at a moments notice. Or if I want or need to, I can maintain a particular behaviour for hours, days, weeks and even months. And I typically have at least two behaviours going on at any one time. This is not to say that I deliberately manipulate my behaviour – I am what I am in that moment and it comes naturally.
Being with different people changes our personality and behaviour. And these aren’t subtle changes, some of them are polar opposite to each other. Does that make us fake, inconsistent, hard to read, or simply a people pleaser?
Let’s look a little deeper at how our multiple behaviours and personalities affect the people around us.
Who’s the fake?
Like I said, I ‘act’ differently around different people and I sometimes wonder why I do it and if it’s really necessary. By constantly changing my behaviour depending on who’s in front of me, am I deceiving them in some way, or me?
Should I behave consistently with everyone? Am I manipulative and sleazy to tweak my behaviour so I get acceptance or an experience I desire?
Research informs us that paying attention to how we’re coming across and adjusting our behaviour based on circumstances is called self-monitoring. People who consistently behave the same around everyone, has low self-monitoring, whereas high self-monitors are completely aware of how they’re ‘acting’ and alter behaviour based on what they believe the situation requires.
Well I know exactly where I am on this spectrum – maximum self-monitoring. How about you?
What’s your style?
I’ve never been known as ‘normal’ (whatever that means)! I tend to avoid polite chit-chat, and plump for more deep and meaningful conversation. However, I do love the occasional gossip!
I believe that I really come alive when I’m talking about ideas and thoughts – real or make-believe. And I tend to avoid what I call ‘pass-the-time’ conversations – so it would be very rare to hear me talking about politics, the economy, or celebrities. Although I do talk about the weather – that’s obviously an important topic for me.
So, I’m not a ‘pass-the-time’ person, I’m more a ‘shoot-the-breeze’ kind of guy.
There’s always a balance though. I believe it’s a healthy thing to adapt my behaviour and personality to the situation in front of me. It actually makes me more comfortable to do this, and I believe it makes the other person feel the same too.
In conclusion then, I think I have a flexible personality and considered approach to my behaviour. I’m happy with that.
Here’s what I think
I’m an individual that can think independently and that doesn’t need to be overly concerned about fitting in with others. I don’t believe it’s automatically bad to adjust your behaviour based on the people and the environment around you. Everyone does it sometimes. Well, you wouldn’t behave the same at a funeral as you would at a party, right? And you wouldn’t talk to your elderly Grandmother in the same way you would around your best friends. That would definitely land you in trouble!
It’s more than just being pragmatic though. It’s psychological and an ingrained behaviour. And probably the largest ingredient of my overall personality.
Whilst self-monitoring isn’t inherently fake or bad, it is still possible that we do it for the wrong reasons. Being courteous around people, making them comfortable in your presence, showing respect or sympathy are all behavioural tweaks we make every day.
- Not swearing around the kids or your grandparents
- Using your headphones when listening to music on a crowded train
- Avoiding a chat about a subject you know the other person has zero interest in
This is common courtesy, and it’s a good thing to always consider other peoples preferences, beliefs and feelings. If someone doesn’t do this, or can’t do this, as they have low self-monitoring, that could result in them being seen as rude, selfish, insensitive, oblivious and possibly arrogant.
We typically attempt to get on with everyone we meet, and cherry pick topics of conversation we feel the other person would be interested in. It’s at these times we put our own needs to one side.
We do this because we want to be liked, engaging, interesting and seen to be on the same wavelength as the person we’re talking to. And wanting to be accepted and liked is a natural trait of all of us.
But if we try too hard to be liked, it can occasionally come across as false or even worse, desperate. I’m sure we’ve all got friends who we feel try too hard at building relationships. I know I certainly have.
We also experience people who agree with everything we say or do – constantly giving us approving nods, hum’s of agreement, or unnecessary and poorly timed laughter throughout a conversation. For me, this kind of reaction sets off alarm bells and makes me think they may not be interested in what I’m saying, that I’m possibly boring them, or that they themselves are just trying too hard to be liked. Whatever it is, it makes me feel uncomfortable, so I either change the subject in an effort to regain their interest and calm them down, or politely move on. You’re not going to be everyone’s cup-of-tea – and neither will they be yours.
I call this selective communication. And I’m definitely a selective communicator. I try my very best to only talk about the subjects I believe the person I’m in a conversation with will enjoy.
I’m also extremely selective in which parts of my life, personality or interests to mention or hold back. That’s not me being cagey or introverted, it’s tailoring. And the more I get to know and trust someone and believe they feel the same way, that’s when the person gets promoted from one group to the next – acquaintance or colleague to a friend.
Pigs really can’t fly!
White lie – a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.
Embellishing a story to make the conversation or yourself appear more interesting doesn’t necessarily make you a fraud. You’ll probably get away with it (unless you’re in front of my wife – she has an acute bullshit radar). However, if your acting abilities aren’t up to scratch, all your exaggerations and little white lies will be a complete waste of time.
If you do like the odd white lie, then I strongly recommend you practice your ‘engaged face’, perfect your ‘listening politely pose’ and work on your ‘that’s so funny chuckles’. If you can’t align your senses and body to work at the same time and in the same direction – you’ll be spotted faster than the flying pig above your head.
If someone is being deliberately deceptive about who they are, or is attempting to persuade someone to act in a way they wouldn’t otherwise be, then that for me goes far beyond a harmless white lie and steps into the realms of deceit. There are certain behavioural standards that we all need to be aware of and maintain – regardless of our agendas, desired outcomes or egos.
The only positive thought that comes from these scenarios is the saying, ‘what goes around, comes around’ – their downfall will be their own personality, their deceit and their lies.
I obviously feel quite strongly about this. That’s because lies and liars feature at the top of my ‘never be this’ list.
It’s never been more important to understand and appreciate ourselves; our personality and our behaviours. By learning what we’re capable of, our individual character and our beliefs and values, we’ll be better positioned to know what works for us, and what doesn’t. So be the expert of yourself and remember to take responsibility of what you say and do. The only person who can be in charge of you, is you!