Do you sometimes feel like you’re playing a part in a stage play, or like your conversations are part of a role play game in which the rules change depending on the context? In professional relationships, for example, there can be power games, spheres of influence, and rules to be followed if you want to be accepted by a group, as well as office politics and discussions in corridors where you are careful about what you say, how you say it and to whom.
And what about relationships at home? Isn’t it a matter of occupying the space assigned to you or that was hard won by you? Are you the person who never gets cross, who tells jokes, the indestructible parent, or the confidant to whom people can tell everything? To keep things on an even keel, and for a quiet and easy life, are you tempted to give those close to you what they want from you, conforming to their frame of reference and acting in accordance with their likes and dislikes?
But what happens when you abandon the confines of this ‘normal’ behaviour? Do people ask you if you’re okay? …Other people! So that we don’t hurt them and they don’t hurt us, we compromise over what we express; we make deals with ourselves to adapt, and we accommodate a whole range of ‘conditions’ in our relationships.
We can end up incorporating these rules into our everyday behaviour. They gradually become more natural, almost to the point of being part of our personality, and they end up distancing us from our immediate experience by masking our reactions (sometimes even from ourselves). They dampen our spontaneity and our creativity. Eventually we can almost end up becoming this ‘automatic’ behaviour.
By adopting this behaviour, we can predict other peoples’ reactions, ensuring they are familiar, reassuring and acceptable. Security… at the price of frustration? And what pleasure do we get from it? The fear of other people’s reactions is what prevents us from being completely ourselves. It is a fear of judgement, of criticism of our true experience and the words we use to express it… But we don’t have to see things from just one side! As aware as we are of our own fear, we should also be aware that other people are equally afraid.
What if being ourselves – sincere, true and authentic – gave others licence to be completely themselves too?
Article written by our expert Florent BERTHEAS, psychotherapist specialising in human relationships at home and/or in the workplace.
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