Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Facades We Use

With some friends, deep and meaningful conversation flows naturally. With other friends, the conversational depth almost never exceeds that of a puddle. In the past few days I've had some extremely rich and fulfilling conversations with friends. One friend and I were discussing how people connect with each other. There is always the general social conversation that most of society favors: small-talk, polite inquiries into well-being, topics deemed of general interest. While that helps keep things comfortable and light, in many ways it's a way of avoiding deeper connection.

Though many people secretly crave deeper connection, most people also are fearful of being genuine or vulnerable with others. In group settings, this insecurity is even more pronounced. While people might be willing to discuss things that are more personal in a one-on-one context, in a group setting there is much more general hesitance to express one's true thoughts and feelings. Of course, apart from some expression of one's true thoughts and feelings, neither friendship nor deeper connection can occur between two people.

Facades of all sorts inhibit such connection. Whenever we act or speak in such a way as to disguise our true thoughts or feelings, we are utilizing a facade. Fundamentally, there are two types of facades. Some people have cultivated an unconscious facade. They are not aware of the social-exterior they display (or at least attempt to display) to others. Most people who have an unconscious facade also expect others to utilize a similar facade, and actually have a harder time connecting with those who do not have a similar facade. Such people generally feel a desire to connect with others, but are unaware of their own insecurities and fears which prevent deeper connection.

Another sort of facade is the intentionally-crafted sort. This type of facade is not an accidental or subconscious creation, but instead is consciously developed with the explicit aim of effecting social interactions. Those who have crafted facades generally possess a deeper awareness of their own mannerisms, behaviors, and speech patterns as well as a heightened awareness of social norms and the perceptions of others. As a result of "trying on" various personalities and testing various mannerisms, they generally are fairly easily able to see through the facades of others, and also are more able to manipulate the perceptions of others.

The other kind of person, the most rare sort, is the truly genuine person. Such a person generally does not utilize a facade of any sort in social interactions. Truly genuine people generally are genuine for one of three reasons:

Some are completely oblivious to social norms and perceptions and therefore violate all sorts of social norms simply on accident. These sorts of people tend to be social misfits who aren't necessarily disliked but generally have a harder time fitting in with any social group.

Some people are extremely naturally assertive and therefore take no thought for whatever social norms they violate. They do what they like, say whatever they're thinking and simply leave their words and actions unfiltered. These people are often perceived as jerks and assholes, but also are admired and loved by some, simply for their unapologetic (and often raw) genuineness.

Some people have completely worked through their own insecurities, and as a result of having a deep self-acceptance, in meekness they offer themselves to the world as they are, unconcerned with the judgments of others. These kinds of people are often aware of social norms, but neither adhere to the social norms, nor flagrantly violate them. They have a certain grace and easy-going presence about them.

Those people who are very genuine have a greater capacity for developing deeper and more lasting connections based on genuine respect. Yet, the path of being genuine is not an easy one to walk. In a culture that is quite superficial and expects a certain level of superficiality, it takes boldness and humility to be aware of social norms without being enslaved to them. Yet, the eschewing of facades is a necessary prerequisite to connecting with people more fully. Both the fear-based unconscious facades and the crafted and calculated facades generally do more harm than good. They keep people socially "safe" while simultaneously preventing people from building the relationships they desire.

1 comment:

  1. Just a couple of days ago I found myself in the all too common scenario where if I said what I was thinking, I risked ostracism. I decided that the people weren't mature enough to hear what I had to say and I chose to stay safe in that instance. It was some people who were saying that they sensed ghosts in the room, and the affirmations were just bouncing off each other. I was very tempted to say something sceptical, but I chose to wear a facade.

    An important aspect is to be aware of how honest you're being - sometimes it is prudent to lie or hide your feelings - this is called tact. I feel that some people are easily offended, and that is the real problem in many social interactions. Although maybe I just need to work on my communication skills a bit :)

    Next time I'm more inclined to bite the bullet and maybe ruffle a few feathers.

    A question - is a very honest person happier than a deceptive person?

    I like your description of the person who has deep self acceptance and is secure in their own person. Maybe my characterisation of a person who is easily offended is just the antithesis of this.

    Another thought: many people spend their lives deeply believing things that they have no reason to believe. For example religion. This probably an unconscious facade that people have. For example, hating a homosexual because they believe it's against god's will, but this attitude of hate is just an unconscious layer - underneath is a rational mind that would have no intrinsic problem with homosexuality. But then, maybe we are all just a series of facades in a sense, layer after layer, just like an onion (with raw instinctive drives at the middle).

    Nice article. I'm getting from this that self acceptance is vital, and fear is what causes us to wear masks (like I did with the ghost believing friends).