I don’t remember where I heard it. I do remember it was eons ago – further back than I could attempt to pin down. But somewhere along my journey, I remember someone once saying, “Who you are in one area of your life is who you are in every area of your life.” It stuck with me.
And while we like to believe that we can shape-shift our way through the different relationships in our lives – showing up as the hard-driving-no-nonsense-guy with subordinates, and as the agreeable-charismatic-company-man with those up-the-ladder, and as everybody’s-buddy with colleagues, and as the fun-loving Dad at home – it doesn’t quite work that way. People know. They know when we’re different with different people.
There’s a Facebook quote that’s been making the rounds that comes to mind: “A person who is nice to you but who is not nice to the waiter is not a nice person.”
People know. People can sense what’s real and what’s not.
The thing is, we’re not all one way or the other. We’re not all nice or not nice. We’re both. We’re not hard-driving, or agreeable-charismatic, or everybody’s-buddy, or fun-loving, we’re all of it. It’s not like we can simply remove a part of our persona like removable parts on a robot. Who we are in one area of life is who we are in every area of life – we just like to shove certain parts of ourselves into storage.
And we don’t compartmentalize who we are as well as we might think we do. There are “tells”. Some verbal. Some non-verbal. And the mixed messages we’re sending the world aren’t helping us. They’re just confusing those around us. They may not be able to put a finger on it – they probably couldn’t name what’s not jiving – they sense it. And it effects our relationships – it keeps them from being all-in. And it effects our ability to influence – as they don’t know if they can trust or not. And it effects the way we experience ourselves – for we can hide from many people, but deep inside we know what’s real. A chameleon only changes color to hide.
And we tell ourselves “we have to” that we can’t succeed if we “don’t play the game”. But maybe we have it all wrong. Maybe instead of hiding who we are to fit in we need to grow who we are to stand out.
Because to make an impact, we have to do more than survive.
So unless you want to have employees who aren’t all-in, and bosses who find you expendable, and clients who aren’t loyal, and friends and family who hold you at arms-length or don’t count on you – finding a way to compartmentalize less and get real more might be in your best interest.
Because don’t fool yourself – people know.