What Does It Say About You by the Way You Adapt to Social Norms?

Bill Abbate

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How do you want other people to see you? Most of us have a view of ourselves that may or may not match reality. With social pressures, we can attempt to make ourselves look and speak like what we believe will help us fit into a particular group.

An example of this is at the office. If you are in a more formal organization, you may alter your behavior and personality to suit the environment. The same can be said when you are at a church, restaurant, or in public at a sporting or social event.

In a way, most of us are chameleon-like in how we change to suit the environment. Is it wrong to do such a thing?

Adapting to social norms

Traveling the world for many years, doing business throughout Asia and Europe, you learn a great deal about people. In particular, you pick up on how different cultures prefer to do business. Anyone who deals internationally is used to adapting to the country's social norms in which they are working or visiting.

Even within the United States, there are differences in how people prefer to do business. Some parts of the country are fast-paced and don't want to fool around when making decisions, while others are slower-paced and do not rush into things. Then there is a whole range of others in between. And this is to say nothing of the variances in individual preferences and personalities.

When dealing with individuals anywhere in the world, it is helpful to understand people, cultures, and social norms. For example, one of the first things you learn doing business in Asia, especially in China and Japan, is business card etiquette. When you exchange business cards, it is never a good idea to glance at a card and quickly put it aside or in a pocket, as most Americans tend to do. Doing so can be insulting. If you handle their business cards that way, you better hope what you have to offer them is desperately needed!

What does adapting say about you?

"The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear." Socrates (470-399 BC)

There is a big difference between modifying your behavior to adapt socially and faking it. It is important to be true to who you are and not attempt to be someone you are not!

Sure, you hear the old saying, "fake it until you make it," and while it may have good use in some circumstances, it is not a good idea to overdo it. When used with the proper motive, this tactic can be of help. If you are trying to increase your confidence by appearing poised, assured, and optimistic, it can be a helpful personal development exercise.

If your motive is wrong, watch using the "fake it until you make it" tactic. It is never a good idea to appear to be something or someone you are not. Doing so is more akin to lying and being deceitful, not exactly a good thing.

An example of improper use of the "fake it until you make it" tactic is putting yourself forth as an expert in some field when you are not. It is better to be honest, and not get caught in such deceit. When exposed, the embarrassment would likely be great and deserved.

Yet, how often do people use such tactics on social media? The lives many people portray on social media can be very deceitful. One study found more than 75% of people on social media lie about themselves in their profiles! While there appear to be a few honest people out there, there are far fewer than one would hope!

What is it these people are covering up about themselves? What would make someone decide to deceive others purposely? A few reasons people lie include that they are:

  • Insecure
  • Self-protecting (defensive, disappointed, intimidated, feel inferior, low self-esteem, etc.)
  • Manipulative or controlling
  • Attention seeking
  • Self-absorbed or narcissistic
  • Hiding something or avoidant

While these represent only a handful of the reasons people lie and become deceitful, they are damning.

As said, our chameleon-like abilities, when used with a proper motive, can be helpful at times, yet there is little or no excuse to misuse them. Does your motive not speak volumes about who you are?

Always examine your motive when interfacing with others, not only on social media but in all of life. You will be the better for it, and others will enjoy being in your company far more!

Final thoughts

Ask yourself, "Who am I?"

This is a serious question everyone needs to answer to become their best selves and live a fulfilled life.

Following this question with: "Who do I want to be?" is crucial as well.

What kind of life can you lead if you never take some time to explore the depth of these questions? Turning to another quote by Socrates, one of the most repeated quotes of all time:

"The unexamined life is not worth living" Socrates (470-399 BC)

If only a few of the 75% who lie and deceive on social media examined their life by seriously contemplating these two questions, they would be far better off. They would likely reduce their stress and strife a great deal and achieve more. More importantly, they would develop better relationships and have many other good things come into their lives. They would move from the negative of lies and deceit to the positive of truth and honesty.

To paraphrase ancient scripture, how will they know unless someone tells them? There is no better time than the present to get the word out.

Take a minute and share this article with someone who needs it. It is especially important those three out of four people on social media read it. Maybe you can help one of them escape the trap they have fallen into of trying to make themselves look far better than they are!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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