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Do you change your body language, mannerisms, or speech with different people?

Wednesday October 19, 2022

Amber writes,

When you interact with other people who are different personality types, do you change the way you act or speak around them?

Quick answer: Absolutely.

And: If you are interested in it, I think you should try it.

Big Note

I don’t really do this in the mimic-other-people sense that you may have read about. Like if someone folds their arms, I’m not going to fold my arms just because they did!

I don’t find that very interesting or creative, in fact it seems kind of shallow and easy to detect. If I detect someone else doing it, I find myself leaning toward not trusting them.

Most of the time I think you can keep your general style but change the expression on your face, the direction in which you look, and the words you use, here and there.

A little bit goes a long way.

You Can’t Always Be Yourself, Subconscious Edition

The truth is, you cannot always be yourself. As an idea, or model, it certainly works in some ways (do what you want to do in life, generally speaking!) but it is really broken and overused in some other big ways.

For example, reading articles like this one is learning. Learning is growing. Growing is change—everybody does it, all the time. Change is stress. Stress comes and goes. So, know the process and embrace it! And take breaks to enjoy what you’re becoming.

And that’s just the barely-conscious stuff. Your subconscious mind may also have some plans for you—you may suddenly decide you want a bright red sports car for your 50th birthday, even though you just bought a gray economy model!

Well, there’s a change. Surprise!

You Definitely Can’t Be Yourself, Group Edition

The same general idea is true with relationships.

Interpersonal dynamics always change, with each new interaction. The change depends on the personalities and traits of those involved.

Yes, this means that you definitely change, contextually. You may have already realized that in some cases you almost seem to become a completely different person, when you’re around different groups of friends, coworkers, relatives, and so on.

Unless you become aware of the specific dynamic, and know what to do with it, you’ll probably be stuck in whatever the default is for the combination of your personality type and the others who are involved.

You will probably, at some point, find yourself in a frustrating, repetitive loop that may remind you of some painful time in your past, or prevent you from making some kind of breakthrough you desire.

Personally, after studying this stuff for a long time, I do find that I’m usually aware of the dynamic. This means that I have some control over it.

Since I have some control, I tend to make conscious decisions about what to do—like which cognitive processes to favor in conversation, and which to avoid, sometimes—and I refine that initial decision over time.

(I’ve also made some REALLY dumb decisions about this in the past, and I’m glad to have had a lot of practice since then.)

Caveats

Here’s some important stuff to keep in mind.

  • This takes time to learn. In some cases it is REALLY hard and frustrating. You may not be aware of many others who are willing to do it.
    • Corollary: In many cases it’s better to disengage, change roles, teams, situations, etc. first.
    • Corollary: People who are not willing to engage in this kind of study & change are definitely missing out in a variety of ways.
  • You are changing yourself by doing this. And “Don’t change yourself to suit others” is a terrible model here, don’t apply it or you’ll fall into all the old loops and traps. It’s more like, “Change yourself to have more control over your life” IMO.
  • By the way, this also involves inviting others to change. For the sake of preserving your own energy and motivation levels, there will be times when you MUST be willing to invite others to responsibly step up to the plate, so to speak. For example, it could be that you MUST be willing to invite the other party to really open their mind in some way, if they are asking you to close yours. Even if they don’t know how hard you’re working behind the scenes, you still must be willing to invite or direct them to use their best effort to work with you, when things aren’t exactly equitable for you.
  • If you are taking conscious control of this activity, then you should certainly organize it, log it, and track it. At least at first.
  • It can be extremely helpful to think up creative ways to be upbeat and be less of a hardass. There are very few situations where hardassery is the only option.
  • You can’t solve a relationship, but you can sure as hell do a lot to make it work way better.
  • Set boundaries with yourself. If you’re an introvert, don’t overexpose yourself to people, or to constantly-changing groups of people. If you’re an extrovert, be really careful not to sum everybody up, or tell yourself “I know people”. That’s a good way to lose control fast, when the dynamic isn’t going in your favor. Gentle, thoughtful moves are often best.
  • A personality type system can be described as a model that helps to develop fairly-safe assumptions about a group of people. This description bundles two important aspects: First, the word is “assumption”, not “fact”. Second, an individual is not a group! Be careful and watch the individuals’ responses to what you are doing.

Other Tips

  • If you know what cognitive processes or functions a person prefers, congrats—you also know what to avoid, if you want to work with them productively. That’s huge sometimes!
  • There are some pretty safe general rules you can pick up fast. If somebody’s being an untrustworthy rogue, it’s generally not a good idea to act like a clueless tourist around them, unless you have a specific idea in mind!
  • Another simple one: Introverts often don’t understand how important attention is, to extroverts. If you are not giving an extrovert (or a person acting extroverted) some attention, you are withholding or reserving some control for yourself. End of story. If you need control, the attention dynamic is one of the first areas to review.
  • If the situation seems difficult, make simple, reliable decisions early & fast, and commit. If it’s an important, ongoing situation, always buy yourself time and know how you’ll use the time with respect to that situation.
  • Don’t be mean or cruel to people. It’s not worth it. You want revenge? Dumb idea! Get something else, like at least get satisfaction first, and see if that’s enough for you.
    • Corollary: Communicate with people early and directly so you don’t have to be sneaky.
  • Use these tools to make the world better. Watch for others gifts, as an expression of their cognitive preferences.

As a result of this kind of work:

  • You should feel more capable of setting gentle boundaries with other people.
  • You should feel more comfortable in your long-term relationships.
  • You should feel like you can make smarter decisions about when you want to have some other people around, and when you don’t. You may even learn how to decide what kind of setting that will need to be, to support you best.
  • You should feel ready to grow into a more circumspect, healthy version of yourself, using a gentle approach that works better than obsolete models like “don’t change who you are”.
  • You should feel more unlocked in life, more generally capable, and definitely more skilled with people.

I hope that helps, Amber!

Filed in: Relationships /77/ | Parenting /5/ | Control /109/

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