Skip to main content

The first step to being authentic - realizing when you're mimicking

A couple of weeks ago when I was getting advice from someone about negotiating, he said "remember to be authentic".

The phrase stuck with me, but I didn't think about it in much depth.

It came back to me today in another context. It helped that I was vacation for a week, so I was looking at work (and how I work) with fresh-ish eyes.

  • In a meeting today, I found myself suddenly stepping back and looking at my behavior.  I wasn't acting like I was when I ran meetings a couple of years ago, but it was suspiciously like someone I used to work with a year ago.
  • Earlier in the day, I was having a slightly tense discussion with someone and I found my tone suddenly sharp, hesitating on my words to use and being suddenly passive aggressive - something uncharacteristic to me - and so immediately also unpleasant for me. I realized I was simply matching the tone of the person I was having a discussion with. 

In both cases I was mimicking - copying behaviors I'd seen before in similar context.
  • In the first case, I was copying someone I thought was extremely effective in that context 
  • In the second case, I simply mirroring the behavior of the person that had initiated the context
These aren't necessarily bad things. In fact, it's how most people act. It just isn't necessarily the most effective or the most pleasant thing long term.

Why isn't it the most pleasant?
Let's go to Gandhi for this one:
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

If you're mimicking style or substance, it's likely you're departing from what you'd usually say or think.

Why isn't it the most effective?
  1. In the second case, its pretty obvious - mimicking sub-optimal behavior is, well... sub-optimal
  2. In the first case, this might even be good. If you're emulating a pattern you know worked, it could be very effective. However, ultimately if the pattern doesn't feel like yours (or you don't work on it till it does) it may not be as effective. 
So what do you do about it?
  1. Recognize the mimicking - knowing is half the battle
  2. Think hard (ideally before you're in those situations) about how you'd ideally act
  3. Watch yourself during these situations - being aware and present allows you the chance to change what you don't like
I'm mid-way through (2) right now on a couple of these situations. :-)



Popular posts from this blog

Yup - humans still lack humanity

Every once in a while, I'm reminded that humans can be completely lacking in humanity.

My wife had the following experience yesterday on her ride back home. She got on the train and found a seat. The train was unusually crowded and it looked a lot of people had to stand for a long ride. An elderly Asian gentleman carrying a few things in both hands, was looking for spot, started to complain smilingly about the train being so full and stood in the aisle at the back of the carriage some seats away from her.

She expected someone closer to gentleman in the aisle (lots of younger people on the train) to give him their seat.

No one did.

The train started, and it was clear the man was having a lot of trouble standing up. Then at the next stop there was actually an announcement saying the train was full so please give up your seats to people who needed them.

Still nobody moved.

My wife got up walked to the end of the train and asked the gentleman to go over to her seat. She still couldn&#…

Whimsy when I changed my profile picture...

I changed by profile picture at work.

Later in the day, two people on my team had changed their profile pictures to these.. :-)

It made my day!

I changed my profile pic again today. Let's see how fast anyone catches on this time. :-)

Everyone's struggle is real... at the very least to them

A couple of weeks ago, while in line waiting to pick up some food I'd just ordered, I overheard two conversations - I don't make a habit of this, but it's hard to not hear things when you leave your phone behind. :-/
My first reactions as I heard both of these conversations was annoyance at the protagonist in one and admiration for the other. Both conversations stayed with me for a while, but it took me some time to realize that was unfair on my part to be annoyed at the person that I was annoyed at.

So about these conversations:
The first was between someone working there and a friend. She was sympathizing with her friend who'd be starting a new job leaving this place. "Oh, it's minimum wage again?", she said with concern in her voice. "Yes, but it's fine", said her friend. The job was closer to where she lived so she thought she'd make about the same and she might get home a little earlier to her daughter some evenings though the hours…