Social Chameleon or Personality Disorder
Are you a skilled social actor or a social chameleon? Are you socially skilled or just fitting in? I believe that we all engage in impression management. Meaning that we are all trying to “fit in” into a variety of social situations. We all have the ability to read social cues and alter our behavior in order to try to “fit in” to a specific situations. Humans also have the advanced traits of social control, particularly the skill in social acting. Self-confidence and poise allow us to be effective in a wide variety of social situations essentially blending into unnatural roles.
The social chameleon changes depending on the environment and who is present, constantly struggling to fit in. This constantly changing identity makes it difficult to establish a firm sense of self. Chameleons are people trying to be the right person in the right place at the right time with the right knowledge or skill. Even if they do not know anything about the subject they will try to convey a sense or knowledge. If you analyze that a step deeper the person continually monitors their social performance, skillfully adjusting it when they detect that they are not having the desired effect. Once the person has made a good impression and won over the trust factor they tend to have less satisfying relationships with the person or group of people that they infiltrated. Which if you are only happy and content for the short time frame after gaining acceptance, than what happens afterwards? More than likely this feeling creates a conflict in the person, that causes them to thrive on the inconsistency of friendship or the being accepted feeling.
Two Outliers, One Spectrum
Social chameleons are motivated by winning people over or getting them to agree. This skill set would be highly valuable in the marketplace as long as it was being used in the right manner. On the spectrum of professional chameleon-ism there would be two outliers. For example the skills being used for good (or the right wing) would be considered a sales person but using the skills for wrong doing (to the left wing) would label the person as a con-artist. The con-artist types are people who are sociopaths, or people who will say and do whatever it takes to get them what they want at the moment in time. The sales person type would be using the skills to manipulate the situation to achieve the desired deal for the greater good of a business with both parties receiving something from the deal.
Are we born to adapt to our surrounding or do we develop these skills over time? There must be some reason why humans are so good at being chameleons, personally I assumed that it is instinctive. Going all the way back to primitive times needing to blend in to your surroundings to avoid being eaten by predators. Blending in became more of a reaction for me, while growing up. I knew how to adapt and change persona’s to gain friends or influence people. If I wanted to be part of the ‘cool’ kids all I had to do is learn the local social norms and adapt to them quickly. Essentially I taught myself how to blend into situations. With that being said it leads me back to my original question are we born or do we learn how to be chameleons? Is it learned behavior to alter who we “really are,” or are we born with our blending abilities?
If we grow up with a skewed fundamental sense of our true self, what will happen? Do you think by being a social chameleon you would develop self-esteem issues? While attending college and a few times in high school we studied Abraham Maslow and the characteristics of self-actualizing people. According to Maslow, self-actualizing people are healthier than non-self-actualizing people. They have more efficient perceptions of reality and are more comfortable with it, among other things. Maslow believed that self-actualization was everyone’s destiny, should they choose it. In laymen terms this means be yourself, so that when you accomplish a goal or milestone YOUR own self-esteem rises, not your false persona’s. By discovering and capitalizing on your God given skills and abilities is when you will become a healthy functioning person.
Modern Day Business Application
Today’s society places great value on our ability to network. Deep-rooted friendship with your next-door-neighbor is out the door with the new found goal being to maximize your social network with Facebook friends, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, and so on. While the old statement, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” is truer than ever, in the way in which we now get to “know” people has taken a turn towards superficial. We have been groomed to master social situations to gain false friendship in order to obtain success.
You meet a person or are introduced to them, instantly you are hunting for a common interest, than you hope to dive into a discussion about said topic (remember discussion is different than debate), and after all is said and done you decide whether to exchange email addresses. One variable is crucial to this equation and that is finding that common interest, or feeling the “click”. This is what sets some interactions apart from others. By using our social chameleon skills we can control a conversation or situations to achieve the best possible outcome being a connection or lead.
What we need to work on now is harnessing our inner social chameleon. Personally, by having the ability to strike up conversation and find “me-too’s” with diverse groups of people I simply need to work on maintaining a clear sense of self. I am sure like anything this ability can be developed by accumulating experiences.
So I will end on this thought with two simple questions; whose life are you living today and how are you revising your version of self?