Role Playing – See through people’s masks August 17, 2023 by Riston Regardless of how sincere a person is, they, like everyone else, have an outward demeanor they project to others. This outward demeanor is effectively an interface for being able to interact in different social situations and in different capacities and roles. Everyone projects themselves a little differently depending on whether they are interacting with a spouse, child, parents, co-workers, social clubs, or personal friends; far from being inauthentic, this is to some degree a necessity. The goal here is to both play one’s roles well, with personal integrity, while also cultivating the skill of being able to see through the masks that others wear. Non-verbal cues often go undetected by most most people, and accordingly few put forth the effort to control many of these telltale signs when expecting to pass off duplicity behind their social personas. Here are a few action categories for cultivating the ability to see through other’s masks: Observational Skills – Make a conscious effort to observe and build out a baseline set of expressions for those you interact with long-term. Don’t immediately jump to rash judgements and perform psychoanalysis for every subtle move they make, but instead, just become aware of their baseline, then notice specific tendencies that can be associated with different emotions and situations. This will improve your ability to pick up on attitudes lurking beneath the facade that other, less well known people wear. Decoding Keys – In keeping with the above, you want to begin noting cues (keys) to real attitudes and emotions. Three important classes of cues are: Like/Dislike Cues – This is valuable for determining whether someone genuinely likes you, or secretly dislikes you but are trying to ‘play nice’. Being able to pick up on non-verbal cues and fake smiles is invaluable for discerning duplicity and being able to influence others (and whether or not to waste your time attempting to). Dominance/Submission Cues – As humans tend to develop hierarchies in group contexts, they often tend to develop pecking orders. It is wise to distinguish between petty, insecure, and arrogant tyrants from those who have real leadership qualities, and to make a habit of avoiding the former. Sometimes, especially in relationships, insecure parties who crave power over the other will manifest the strategy of ‘the symptom’, where something like an illness will compel the other to play by the would-be dominant party’s demands. Deception Cues – To maintain a smooth social environment, everyone ends up telling partial white lies. While ideally everyone should be able to accept blunt, honest criticisms and opinions, that isn’t how people generally are ( I think the concept of tact applies here). The point being that these types of lies are ubiquitous, and trying to note all of them all the time would cause cognitive overload. The focus needs to be on discerning deception when stakes are high and in being able determine whether someone is actually out to get you or they are just being sociable. The Art of Impression Management – We often think of ‘playing a role’ as inauthentic, but it does not necessarily have to be so. It is best to try to project oneself a bit differently in a professional setting from when we are hanging out with friends or close family. You shouldn’t try to be someone that you are not, but being too informal can inspire an impression of incompetence. Here are a few strategies for enhancing the skill of impression management: Master Non-Verbal Cues – In first meetings, people generally tend to look more intently for non-verbal cues. Becoming aware of one’s subconscious ‘ticks’ when dealing with new people in important situations is an invaluable skill for eliciting a solid first impression. Become a Method Actor – Learning to control one’s emotions to display appropriate responses in certain circumstance can be a valuable skill. Emote but don’t go too far. Adapt to Your Audience – This is generally applicable to any situations requiring persuasion, and is also a rule for composing good, effective rhetoric. Create the Proper First Impression – People tend to form their strongest judgements on first impressions, and often only extended interactions with a person can change the opinions derived from first impressions. Use Dramatic Effects – The strongest means for dramatic effects are balancing presence and absence (“absence makes the heart grow fonder”), and cloaking oneself in some degree of mystery. One shouldn’t throw too many cards on the table all at once. Project Saintly Qualities – Always project a quality of virtue and being beyond reproach. Artfully displaying dominance cues before ascending can inspire an impression of being ‘destined for greatness’.