Imagine walking into a job interview for a job you are hoping to get. Think about the time you get to the meeting, the clothes you chose to wear, the type of questions you prepared to answer your interviewer, your posture when you walk through the door, your eye contact and the firm handshake. The consideration of whether you should wait for the interviewer to gesture you to take a seat before you take it, or the first thing you say as you greet the interviewer.
Think about your energy levels, your tone of voice and your mannerisms. We can all be sure, this is not how we act on a daily basis, and we know we are doing this to put our best foot forward to land the job.
Now, imagine being tasked to entertain your baby cousin who is 6 years old. He just wants to play and have fun. Entertaining him would be making weird noises or telling him stupid stories. What would your posture be like, your mannerisms and tonality be like?
It is the same person, but our behavior, confidence level, vocabulary , and tonality drastically changes depending on the environment. Other scenarios would be entering a class to educate a group of teenagers, entering a networking event that is filled with multi-millionaire business owners, or going to the bar with our good friends.
Socially, we are always looking for where we belong in the social hierarchy with the people around us and to know what ‘role’ we can play. This varies depending on the perceived value and status of the people we are around. These can be influenced by the person’s age, gender, income, job title and intentions.
We all have different personas and social masks that we swap between on a daily basis, and it is catered to the objective and audience we are working with. Generally, one can say that there is a ‘default me’ when I am at home by myself and nobody is watching. And that is fine! But when interacting with others, the status, rapport, relationship and objective we have with the other person or group must be taken into consideration whilst we choose the most appropriate persona to switch to.
Several things to note with a persona would be:
- The energy level (tone of voice, volume of speech)
- Animation (Hand gestures and body movements)
- Body posture
(how much space you are taking up while seated, where your weight distribution whilst standing and if you are relaxed or uptight, amount of eye contact)
- Their vocabulary (the type of words used)
- Their dressing
These might be the things people typically consider first when thinking about who they are being or their ‘persona’. But generally, these are usually byproducts of a more fundamental factor – what is the objective of the interaction.
The variables that matter when interacting with another person would be
- Their gender
- Their status and who they are to us
- How many people are in the social situation
- And most importantly – What we want out of this interaction
We already act and behave differently when we are amongst different people, be it a boss, parent, friends, colleagues or children. And this is natural to us. But have we considered taking ownership of our behavior patterns and personas when interacting with others? The key point here is to take accountability for our behaviors, tone and what we say when being around others, since we already develop different personas with different people already.
The idea is to adapt to our environment and know what persona works best for different situations. For example, you might be entering a social circle whereby you have not met anyone in the group before. A mixed-gender group of 5 to 8 people who already know each other. A strong social vibe that is high energy, fun and engaging would work well to mingle with the people there. To be able to address the group as a whole rather than pick them out one by one for a deep and heavy conversation.
Then if you are with a friend who wants to talk about his/her troubles, it might not be a good idea to be super high energy. But rather being calm and passionate with your replies, with topics that might be a lot more heartfelt and understanding to pace out and mirror that of your friend.
Both personalities are drastically different, but they are formulated from the same person. It is important to calibrate which role you are playing and what you want out of the conversation or engagement. The key here is not to fixate yourself with only one style of communication and totally cut out other styles of communication from the people around you. The ability to adapt to and from different social interactions is key in being a charismatic and charming person.