Sometimes, fake it

fakeit7.001There are times when I am so unlike myself that I might be taken for someone else of an entirely opposite character. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions, 1782

Last night Mary and I hosted our neighborhood’s monthly dinner party. From 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. our home was filled to capacity with people.

I struggle at these events because I am the archetypal introvert. My idea of a good evening is to sequester myself in my study and read a book. I would rather chew on cut glass than have to be “on” for four hours at a social event.

But last night I played the part. I was a gregarious, talkative, engaging host.

Was I being disingenuous and hypocritical? I don’t think so, because sometimes we need to act like someone we’re not. Psychologists have a term for this: counter-dispositional behavior.

I learned this lesson from psychology professor Brian Little’s book titled Me, Myself, and Us: The Personality and the Art of Well-Being. Little teaches a large, popular psychology course at Harvard. Though he is an introvert, his teaching style is very animated and energetic, so much so that his students are always surprised to hear him admit that when he’s teaching, he’s also acting. Little explains and defends his behavior in chapter three of his book: Free Traits: On Acting Out of Character.

I’m a big proponent of authenticity; we all need to discover how we are unique, accept the distinctions, and live authentically. Be your true self because therein lies deep satisfaction. Long term, you cannot sustain inauthentic behavior. But in the short term you can, and sometimes should, fake it.

Dr. Little says there are two main reasons why counter-dispositional behavior is often necessary — for professional reasons and for love.

If certain aspects of your work require you to be someone you’re not, have the emotional fortitude to play the part. For instance, if you’re a salesperson you may need to be more animated than your real self would normally be. Likewise, if for the love of family and friends you need to put aside your true self and temporarily assume a new persona, do so.

Last night I was an extroverted host. I did it because I love my neighbors and wanted them to feel welcomed and affirmed during their brief stay in our home. I couldn’t maintain that image 24/7, but I did for 247 minutes. Granted, it was exhausting, and when the last guest left, I went to my study, pulled out a book, and resumed my normal identity.

[reminder]What are you thoughts about this topic?[/reminder]

What? – Sometimes we must adapt our behavior to meet the demands of the moment. This is not being insincere; it’s being smart and at times, loving.
So what? – We need to embrace this concept and know when to engage in it.
Now what? – Identify times in your life when it would be advantageous for you to engage in counter-dispositional behavior, and start doing so.

Leaders – Identify times in which your leadership position may require you to act in a way that is unnatural to you. Talk to your team members about this principle and how it can enhance their productivity.

20 Replies to “Sometimes, fake it”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree. It is apparent in both professional and personal aspects of my life. It took years for me to understand and accept both sides. Thanks for this good article.

    1. Thanks, Lois Ann, for sharing your thoughts. The sooner we learn this lesson, the better.
      Kind regards, Don.

  2. I’m right there with you, Don. When I’ve been “on” and working a room, internally my batteries drain like there’s a hole in the floor, but people who’ve only ever seen me in that state think I’m an extrovert. They don’t know the way I crash and burn when I get home.

    And I don’t think it’s being fake at all. I do it because I really do care about people. I like people … I just need to conserve my energy if I’m going to be dealing with many at once.

    1. E.S., thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love your phrase “my batteries drain like there’s a hole in the floor.” I’ve been there, felt that.
      Kind regards. Don

  3. I fully agree Don. By God’s design, I am an introvert. At a party I would rather be in the corner talking to myself or at most, one person, but many people who know me would not believe it because I’m outgoing and talkative in church and other public places. I believe this is also what God wants. We can’t be used by Him if we are in a corner talking to ourselves, unless of course we are talking to Him, and then I think He would say, “Get out there and let your light shine”.

    1. Thanks, David, for sharing your thoughts. Sometimes, we who are introverts, are asked to do things that make us very uncomfortable, but do them we must. Take care.

  4. I would say I’m an introvert. I think God purposely puts us in positions of leadership that require us to be opposite of what we are. It stretches and grows us. Either that or he has a sense of humor and enjoys watching us act out. Being a Music Minister on stage isn’t exactly for the introverted, but that’s how God works. He calls us out of our comfort zones to serve Him, for His glory.

    I so enjoy your articles. Thank you for taking the time to share and build into others.

    1. Thanks, Jaron, for sharing your thoughts. You’re right, we’re often required to do things that are contrary to our nature, but do them we must. Thanks for reading the essays.

  5. I so identify with you in this aspect. I’d rather be sitting down with embroidery but will be entertaining guests tomorrow night for the sake of friendship and hospitality. Thank you for your thought-provoking articles. I think as a musician I am hiding inside the music!

    1. Sally, thanks for sharing your thoughts. We all have our comfort zones and they feel so…comfortable. But often we must venture out.
      Take care,

  6. Thanks for the good word. I’ve known people over the years who were very bold and confident when on stage or in the pulpit, but who were almost shy when they were one-on-one. I think they were “faking it” (or acting, sounds better) for both professional reasons and love (for their audience and congregation.) You can be authentic AND adapt to the situation. What a great insight.

    Plus, I learned a new nickel word (a phrase actually) that I can drop: counter-dispositional behavior.

    1. Rob, thanks for sharing your thoughts. This insight (counter-dispositional behavior) has given me a new lease on life.
      I hope you are well.

  7. Thank you for these great words, Don. As a card-carrying introvert myself, I was nodding in agreement the whole time! May we always listen for God’s nudging to push us beyond ourselves!

    1. Thanks, Katie, for sharing your thoughts. This idea – counter-dispositional behavior – really set me free to be someone I’m no, when necessary. I hope the idea is beneficial to many.

  8. Thanks for the words of wisdom! I can so relate. At the end of the day, after counseling with families that are struggling with the emotional roller coaster of a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – I don’t want to talk with anyone, I don’t want to answer my cell phone, I don’t want to have to put on a happy face … I just want to collapse in my chair and focus on something other than the terrible disease of Alzheimer’s.
    This week I will call a friend & meet her for dinner!
    Hugs and much love to your family! You certainly have a cute Grandson!
    Nelda Davis

    1. Nelda, it’s so good to hear from you. I don’t see how you do it…counseling all day long. But, thanks for caring for people; you’re so good and natural at that.
      I have fond memories of our times together at FBCG.

  9. Don,

    You are so right on. I have to do the same thing in my business. Im not really the socialite but everyone thinks I am because of all of the design events that I attend. Like you I would rather be at home or with close friends in a much smaller intimate setting. You and Mary have always been the gracious hosts since I have known you guys. I think that you both are the epitome of hospitality.

    1. Glen, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’ve always been impressed with your people skills. You present yourself well. This truth (counter-dispositional behavior) is very liberating because it affirms who I really am but allows me, at times, to be someone I’m not.
      Best to you,

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