If you are to take a step back and reflect on your personality, how will you characterize yourself?
A quiet introvert? An unabashed extrovert? A predominant leader? An accommodating team player? A sensible arbitrator? Or a mix of many roles?
If you present yourself in different fashions in front of different people, then what is your true personality? Or is the idea that there is a true personality in everyone a misleading notion?
The social psychologist, Erving Goffman, known for his eccentricity and profound understanding of humans’ social behaviors, has a theory: “we are all just actors trying to control and manage our public image.”
Mr. Goffman posits that one’s personality is an amalgamation of the roles one chooses to play in a number of contexts one has encountered in his or her life.
Like actors and actresses whose ultimate goals are to render their characters compelling and coherent, we also entertain the same objective when we decide on how to impress different groups of people that come in and out of our lives and how we want them to think of us.
One could both be diligent at work in the eyes of his or her colleagues, and laid-back at home, leaving tedious house chores to his or her parents.
Demonstrating reserved modesty in a meeting filled with people higher on the hierarchy and exhibiting outspokenness and acuity of the mind during a post-dinner chat with close friends can often occur within the same person.
To the core, we are how we choose and what we believe.
But on the outside, our personalities are how we represent ourselves to others, a decision predicated on what kinds of interactions we want to achieve with those self-representations.
Although there are variations in different individuals’ personalities, for the majority of us, we strive to make sure that we are presenting ourselves within the bounds of agreed-upon socially appropriate behaviors.
Those unwritten rules prescribe that people don’t normally yell out curse words in a formal setting, or that they don’t usually address their siblings as if they are their acquaintance-level coworkers.
When they do, however, there’s probably a hidden message underneath the surface of their infractions of the rules.
Some of those violations might risk their current social standings while others might not.
When a hotel staff member puts aside his courtesy and shouts at a customer in angry expletives, he’s likely to get the pink slip.
On the other hand, when a mother calls her five-year-old son a masterful artist in a faked respectful tone after seeing his messy doodles on the wall, this reversal of roles could be a prelude to a subsequent reprimand.
Our personalities are statements about ourselves in various situations as we take on different social identities, and, as the thinking goes, you might not want to sum up someone’s personality in a sweeping description like “he’s generous” or “she’s mean.”