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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

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    Last Updated on September 12, 2019

    12 Things You Should Remember When Feeling Lost in Life

    12 Things You Should Remember When Feeling Lost in Life

    Even the most charismatic people you know, whether in person or celebrities of some sort, experience days where they feel lost in life and isolated from everyone else.

    While it’s good to know we aren’t alone in this feeling, the question still remains:

    What should we do when we feel lost and lonely?

    Here are 12 things to remember:

    1. Recognize That It’s Okay!

    The truth is, there are times you need to be alone. If you’ve always been accustomed to being in contact with people, this may prove difficult.

    However, learning how to be alone and comfortable in your own skin will give you confidence and a sense of self reliance.

    We cheat ourselves out of the opportunity to become self reliant when we look for constant companionship.

    Learn how to embrace your me time: What Your Fear of Being Alone Is Really About and How to Get over It

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    2. Use Your Lost and Loneliness as a Self-Directing Guide

    You’ve most likely heard the expression: “You have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.”

    Loneliness also serves as a life signal to indicate you’re in search of something. It’s when we’re in the midst of solitude that answers come from true soul searching.

    Remember, there is more to life than what you’re feeling.

    3. Realize Loneliness Helps You Face the Truth

    Being in the constant company of others, although comforting sometimes, can often serve as a distraction when we need to face the reality of a situation.

    Solitude cuts straight to the chase and forces you to deal with the problem at hand. See it as a blessing that can serve as a catalyst to set things right!

    4. Be Aware That You Have More Control Than You Think

    Typically, when we see ourselves as being lost or lonely, it gives us an excuse to view everything we come in contact with in a negative light. It lends itself to putting ourselves in the victim mode, when the truth of the matter is that you choose your attitude in every situation.

    No one can force a feeling upon you! It is YOU who has the ultimate say as to how you choose to react.

    5. Embrace the Freedom That the Feeling of Being Alone Can Offer

    Instead of wallowing in self pity, which many are prone to do because of loneliness, try looking at your circumstance as a new-found freedom.

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    Most people are in constant need of approval of their viewpoints. Try enjoying the fact that  you don’t need everyone you care about to support your decisions.

    6. Acknowledge the Person You Are Now

    Perhaps you feel a sense of loneliness and confusion because your life circumstances have taken you away from the persona that others know to be you.

    Perhaps the new you differs radically from the old. Realize that life is about change and how we react to that change. It’s okay that you’re not who you used to be.

    Take a look at this article and learn to accept your imperfect self: Accept Yourself (Flaws and All): 7 Benefits of Being Vulnerable

    7. Keep Striving to Do Your Best

    Often those who are feeling isolated and unto themselves will develop a defeatist attitude. They’ll do substandard work because their self esteem is low and they don’t care.

    Never let this feeling take away your sense of worth! Do your best always and when you come through this dark time, others will admire how you stayed determined in spite of the obstacles you had to overcome.

    And to live your best life, you must do this ONE thing: step out of your comfort zone.

    8. Don’t Forget That Time Is Precious

    When we’re lost in a sea of loneliness and depression, it’s all too easy to reflect on regrets of past life events. This does nothing but feed negativity and perpetuate the situation.

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    Instead of falling prey to this common pitfall, put one foot in front of the other and acknowledge every positive step you take. By doing this, you can celebrate the struggles you overcome at the end of the day.

    9. Remember, Things Happen for a Reason

    Every circumstance we encounter in our life is designed to teach us and that lesson is in turn passed on to others.

    Sometimes we’re fortunate enough to figure out the lesson to be learned, while other times, we simply need to have faith that if the lesson wasn’t meant directly for us to learn from, how we handled it was observed by someone who needed to learn.

    Your solitude and feeling of lost, in this instance, although painful possibly, may be teaching someone else.

    10. Journal During This Time

    Record your thoughts when you’re at the height of loneliness and feeling lost. You’ll be amazed when you reflect back at how you viewed things at the time and how far you’ve come later.

    This time (if recorded) can give you a keen insight into who you are and what makes you feel the way you feel.

    11. Remember You Aren’t the First to Feel This Way

    It’s quite common to feel as if we’re alone and no one else has ever felt this way before. We think this because at the time of our distress, we’re silently observing others around us who are seemingly fine in every way.

    The truth is, we can’t possibly know the struggles of those around us unless they elect to share them. We ALL have known this pain!

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    Try confiding in someone you trust and ask them how they deal with these feelings when they experienced it. You may be surprised at what you learn.

    12. Ask for Help If the Problem Persists

    The feeling of being lost and lonely is common to everyone, but typically it will last for a relatively short period of time.

    Most people will confess to, at one time or another, being in a “funk.” But if the problem persists longer than you feel it should, don’t ignore it.

    When your ability to reason and consider things rationally becomes impaired, do not poo poo the problem away and think it isn’t worthy of attention. Seek medical help.

    Afraid to ask for help? Here’s how to change your outlook to aim high!

    Final Thoughts

    Loneliness and a sense of feeling lost can in many ways be extremely painful and difficult to deal with at best. However, these feelings can also serve as a catalyst for change in our lives if we acknowledge them and act.

    Above anything, cherish your mental well being and don’t underestimate its worth. Seek professional guidance if you’re unable to distinguish between a sense of freedom for yourself and a sense of despair.

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    Featured photo credit: Andrew Neel via unsplash.com

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