I find it fascinating, and at the same time a bit uncomfortable that we are never exactly who we think we are. Our personas shift slightly depending upon who we’re interfacing with at the time.

Our core personalities remain, but different sides of ourselves come out when interacting with different people in our lives. There’s usually a “common” us that comes across when meeting someone for the first time, at least in the first few minutes. But it shifts rather quickly into an actual persona that we can’t help but filter through in our dealings with this person forever more.

Multiple Personas

With some people, I automatically shift into a more leadership, mentoring persona, while with others it’s more subservient, and with others it’s more domineering. Still, with others, it’s more chummy. But the most fascinating part is how quickly it settles into a permanent role, and it often doesn’t seem to make any logical sense based upon hierarchical position, status, or role.

Is it chemical? Is it aural? Is it based on something locked inside us from early childhood experiences? It’s probably a combination of all of these. I guess this is why we decide early on if we like someone or not, and why a personality conflict seems to exist before opportunity for one even presents itself.

As I became more aware of this phenomenon, I tried experimenting by pretending that I’m dealing with someone else. But I believe for most of us, this is simply not possible. It feels forced and unnatural, and we quickly revert back to our roles in the relationship.

I’ve also tried this experiment at meetings, thinking it may be more difficult because of the variety of personalities in the same place, but the personas seep through depending upon who’s getting my focus at the time. I think a lot of this awareness is inward, and not as obvious to the people around us. But you start to pick up similar behavior with people you are very close to.

I can see it in my wife’s relationships, but outward observation is not as distinctive as inward — I can sense a few minor persona differences in her relationships, but I’m sure there’s a lot more color in her awareness than I could experience. At the same time, I’m sure she sees me only slightly different in my interactions, but inwardly I feel my personas more distinctly.

So who is the real me? The real you? Is it the sum total of all our interactions with others? Or is it our inner voice? Is this a good thing? I believe it’s just different sides of our true selves, and what makes us such a complicated species.