One of the interesting concepts I learned about recently was the idea of being authentifake to sell yourself at work.
We’re always told to “be yourself” and “be real.” I’m a little reserved when I first meet people, since I’m an introvert and I experience mild ADD. I’ve made it a point to hold back a little, since sometimes the ADD means I have a hard time with social cues and I’ve developed a filter over the years so I can avoid saying seemingly random things that don’t mean anything to others. So this idea of “being authentic” is a little more challenging for me — at least when I first get to know people in a non-Internet setting.
(Once I get comfortable with you, the story changes, and you might end up with a little too much of the “real” Miranda.)
So, in light of this reality for me, I listened with interest to a piece on the BBC’s World Service the other day. It was an adapted reading of something written by Lucy Kellaway for the Financial Times back in October.
She pointed out that it’s hard to “be yourself” when you have so many “selves” developed for various situations.
How Many Selves Have You Developed?
We all develop different selves to present for different situations, based on what’s appropriate. In fact, Kellaway points out that this is normal for most people:
Which self are you supposed to be? Most people who have got to the age of 29 have mastered quite a few different selves. There is the self you are being when talking to your boss, the self with your friends, the self when lying on the sofa playing Grand Theft Auto V.
Her point, of course, is that we all develop an idea of what’s appropriate for different situations. All of these different selves might be based on some aspect of your personality and “who you really are,” but we all act a little differently depending on where we are.
The most “real” I ever am is in the middle of the night at FinCon, when I’m hanging with my buddies and the filter pretty much disappears.
“Tired and happy to be hanging with bloggy buddies Miranda” is a slightly different (ok, a very different) person than “responsible church Miranda who has to teach children about Jesus” and both are different from “professional business mode Miranda.” Each of these selves has a place, and trying to be “church Miranda” while talking business with a potential client really wouldn’t work out — even though that’s a “real” version of me.
SO, the question is this: How do you come across as “real” in situations where you are actually expected kind of fake? Kellaway writes that when you are in an interview situation, trying to get a job, you’re going to be contriving a lot of who you are because you’ll be “following a set of rules that do not match the natural behaviour of any person ever born.” I think this is also true when you run a home business, and you are meeting with potential clients. At some point, you wind up in a situation where people want you to “be yourself” but it’s practically impossible because, at the same time, you are expected to conform to certain norms — whether it’s for a certain company or whether you’re trying to land a big client for your home business.
Learning How to Authentifake
Kellaway has a solution to this problem. She suggests that you learn how to be an “authentifake.” This is a term she says that she has coined. Learning this skill can help you come across as more natural in job interviews and in other dealings you might have. So many interviewers and potential business partners or clients want to deal with someone who’s “real” and “authentic” in a way that matches their preconceived notions of what would “fit in” with a certain culture or way of doing business. As a result, you’re kind of caught. If you are “true” to yourself, you might not get the job or land the deal. And then, when you are working with that person, you have to continue to present the self that you developed for the interview or business meeting.
The way around this is to be an authentifake. Kellaway writes that it’s about “sticking to the script for 90 per cent of the time, and then for the remaining 10 per cent saying something unexpected that vaguely approximates to what you are thinking or feeling at the time.”
Of course, you still have to have a filter so that you can decide what that small portion of authenticity is going to be. You can still be too honest even in your efforts to be an effective authentifake. Kellaway says that learning this skill is requires some trial and error, and that it’s more of an art than a science. In order to do it well, you need to pay attention to yourself and those around you, and make a note of what seems to work and what doesn’t.
I can see how this skill makes sense in the real world of career and business. There are times when “being yourself” totally and completely isn’t the way to go — especially if you expect to make money working for someone else.
What do you think? Have you been authentifake? Do you have other selves? When are they most appropriate?