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How To Know A Person’s True Personality When We Are So Good At Disguise Nowadays

How To Know A Person’s True Personality When We Are So Good At Disguise Nowadays

Wouldn’t it be great if we could always tell whether someone is who they say they are or if they’re just faking it? Usually our instincts help us differentiate between authentic and untrustworthy people, but sometimes we misjudge. First impressions are critical, but they are only a brief snapshot of a person’s character.[1]

We are too easy to be fooled

When I met our (now ex) colleague, Adrian, he seemed like a great fit for Lifehack. He blew us away in his interview. Imagine the ideal first impression, and that is exactly what he gave us.

Adrian showed up in a tailored navy blue suit. He was tall, dark, and handsome. He was well-spoken, with an accent not unlike Benedict Cumberbatch. He possessed a confidence free of condescension, and an eagerness to be part of our team. He was polite during the interview, and it was clear that he had done his homework about our company. It should come as no surprise that we offered him a job.

In Adrian’s first few months, his work performance was top-notch. He had a way of listening that made his coworkers feel that they were truly heard. He was a complete gentleman around the ladies, but he was also a real guy’s guy.

It seemed like a match made in heaven, only at first

Oh how wrong we were about Adrian. The turning point in how we felt about him came when we put him in charge of a project.

Until this point, everyone had agreed with him about his ideas, but in a planning meeting for his project, someone disagreed with a point that he made. I can still picture the switch flipping in Adrian’s mind. A vein stood out on his forehead, his face turned red, and a harsh tone we had never heard him use escaped his lips. He became defensive almost immediately.

We have an unspoken rule about keeping our criticism constructive, and the point that our coworker made was valid. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity for growth, Adrian viewed it as a personal attack. Not only did he refuse to take advice from anyone, but he argued with those of us who tried to problem-solve around the issue. Needless to say, we all left that meeting feeling shocked and harassed.

So it turns out we are all bullies

We hoped that it was a fluke. Perhaps Adrian had a bad day. There was no way that the well-mannered man who had walked into that interview could have verbally eviscerated all of us like that.

Unfortunately, the outburst wasn’t a fluke. It was the thin carapace of the ideal employee cracking to reveal the monster lurking beneath. He began talking about us behind our backs. He ranted about how we should not have given him such feedback. We discovered that Adrian couldn’t handle negative feedback, nor did he value the other members of his team. Adrian was an arrogant jerk.

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Thank goodness he spared our supervisor the trouble of firing him. When his probation ended, he resigned on the grounds that we, his colleagues, bullied him.

How do we misjudge people?

Getting the first impression correct, whether it is for an interview or a first date. Is the difference between a door opening or slamming in your face. It’s the difference between getting the job, the opportunity, or the significant other.

I think it’s common for us to pull out all the stops when we want to impress someone. We dress up, change the way we speak, and avoid our weaknesses. We try to show people what they want to see.

One of my friends dated someone who created a false impression about himself to fool others. He was an attractive and successful man with a nice home and good taste. If you met him, you’d probably think he was a classy fellow. That’s what my friend thought until she got to know him. She soon learned that the reason for his crisp appearance was extreme vanity. He cared for no one but himself.

I can certainly remember working hard to give a good impression at an interview for a teaching job. I was honest about my capabilities and training, but I wore my only suit. I measured my tone carefully. I did everything that I could to show that I would be a great teacher. I did get the job, but I didn’t wear a suit every day. There is a certain amount of self-fashioning that everyone does in a job interview.

When does working to create a great first impression cross the line?

I’m not going to tell you not to put your best foot forward in an interview or on that first date, but I can say that it is possible to invent a character completely unlike yourself if you aren’t careful. That character could wind up making you miserable by landing you the job that wasn’t a good fit for you or putting you in a relationship with someone who isn’t a good match.

The ideal first impression is best possible version of your true self, but it is still you.[2] People get into trouble when they stop being themselves altogether.

How do we avoid inauthentic people?

Nobody wants to be duped into committing to a disagreeable person. We need to be able to like someone based on their true nature. Knowing who a person really is isn’t a big deal if you don’t have to develop a close relationship. When you have to spend most of your time collaborating and problem-solving, knowing who is on your team is essential.

When someone goes through their day to day in-character, it can work for a while, but eventually they will reveal their true colors. In Adrian’s case, it took us months to uncover who he actually was underneath all that charm. When it comes to beginning a new friendship, romantic relationship, or employment, we often commit based on information from our first impression. Sometimes our first impression is not the truest reflection of a person, though.

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    Identities can be summarized in a pattern of three concentric rings, as shown in the image above.

    The outer ring:

    Our outer ring is the way that we want the world to see us. This is the image that we keep in our heads about how we should look, think, and act. As we head into a first date, a networking event, or a job interview, we hope to project an image that we think will make us successful.

    This can lead to us putting pressure on ourselves to conform. We rehearse our answers and work to make sure that we give the world something that it wants.

    Middle ring:

    Beyond thinking about what we want the world to see, we actively fashion a reality based on what we want to show people. We carefully craft our answers when asked our opinions. We care what people think of us, and most of us work to show people the idealized versions of ourselves.

    The yogis of Instagram are the perfect example. You’ll always see them executing a difficult posture perfectly, but you’re not going to see them struggling in class. In professional settings, we refrain from using certain language, and we address our colleagues in a more formal manner than we might use when we are with our friends. That is a filtered version of reality.

    Core ring:

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    At the core of our being, our innermost circle, we are our true selves. This version of you is the one that you show to the people you trust the most. With our nearest and dearest, we can give our honest opinions and express our real beliefs.

    Being our true selves requires us to be vulnerable, which may be why we are so guarded about our true nature. We can also become defensive if we are criticized in this state. If someone critiques us in our truest form, they are finding fault with who we actually are instead of a constructed version of ourselves.

    For example, you may be your most authentic self around your family members or your partner. Accepting criticism at work can seem second-nature, but if your partner offers you some unsolicited feedback, you might chose to argue.

    Time can be a factor in how well you know a person, but you can also meet a person and feel like you’ve known them forever. Truly knowing somebody isn’t about how long you have been acquainted with them. It’s about how far into these circles you can reach, and how much the person is willing to let their guard down so that you can do that.

    If you want to learn someone’s true personality, you need to get as close to the core as possible

    Building a bond based on authenticity instead of artifice can happen in a relatively short span of time. Close relationships and friendships tend to form more quickly when people face a common threat or overcome an obstacle together.

    Going through a life-altering event together isn’t the only way to get to know someone. You can also observe how they interact with others or by present them with challenges.

    People can’t live “in character” indefinitely

    Notice unconscious habits that the person might have put in place to hide their true nature. We can often tell a lot about a person by the way that they speak about others. Individuals prone to gossip may be offering you a glimpse of poor character.

    The manner in which a person talks about their ex can give you some insight into their character. Pay particular attention to how they handle people different from themselves and how they react in disagreements.

    “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
    -John Wooden

    You can learn about someone by seeing how they respond when they are tested

    If Adrian had been challenged earlier, we would have known about his character flaws much sooner. We generally try to please people. We can mistake our willingness to cater to others for a good relationship.

    The way that a person responds in disagreements tells you more about them than watching them in their comfort zone. Ideally, we want the people around us to be able to listen to others and communicate. They should be able to express their ideas and opinions and collaborate with others to find common ground.

    Challenging a person’s core self can feel uncomfortable, but it reveals things that you need to know about them if you want to have a meaningful relationship with them.

    Ask questions that require them to dive deeply into themselves and see what types of answers they give. If you don’t want to ask a private question, you could try asking them an ethical question.[3] “How do you feel about diversity?” and “Is it ever okay to tell a lie?” can expose biases and principles.

    In a conversation with a potential romantic interest, you could inquire about past relationships. Many people don’t want to spend time dwelling on an ex, but their reaction may indicate how they handle disappointments.

    The types of things a prospective employee tells you about a former employer can help you understand whether they would be a good fit for your organization. What they chose to discuss and the way that they talk about their old boss can reveal their values.

    We have to cut through the illusion

    If we want to have meaningful relationships with others, it is imperative to be able to see a person’s core nature. Avoiding commitments to disingenuous people gives you more room to identify those personalities that do mesh well with you or your organization.

    Getting to a person’s true self can take some practice, but it is a vital skill for unlocking your future happiness and success. There may be missteps along the way, but you will become a better judge of character with time. One way or another, they can’t keep up the illusion forever.

    “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” -Maya Angelou

    Reference

    More by this author

    Brian Lee

    Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

    100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier 10 Best New Products That People Don’t Know About Book Summary: The Power of Habit in 2 Minutes 1 Minute Book Summary: How To Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less 2 Minutes Book Summary: Thinking Fast and Slow

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    Last Updated on March 14, 2019

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

    For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

    Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

    1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

    A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

    It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

    It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

    How it helps you:

    If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

    Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

    2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

    Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

    Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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    How it helps you:

    Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

    Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

    If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

    Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

    3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

    Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

    Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

    How it helps you:

    This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

    For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

    Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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    A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

    4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

    To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

    A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

    How it helps you:

    One word: hierarchy.

    All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

    In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

    If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

    5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

    Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

    Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

    How it helps you:

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    Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

    If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

    This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

    6. What do you like about working here?

    This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

    Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

    How it helps you:

    You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

    Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

    Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

    7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

    What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

    As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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    How it helps you:

    What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

    First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

    Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

    Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

    Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

    Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

    Making Your Interview Work for You

    Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

    Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

    More Resources About Job Interviews

    Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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