Thursday June 02, 2022

Can you tell if someone is being genuine?

Can you tell if someone is being genuine?

Illustrative image.

When someone you know, or even don’t know, tells you something, how convinced are you that they are being genuine? I don’t mean truthful. I mean genuine, which is not really the same thing. I think that someone can be truthful with or without being genuine because, I believe, that being genuine is more of an emotional thing  and pertains to relationships and feeling towards people. For example, someone might be truthfully telling you something but they may not give a hoot about how you will feel about what they are telling you. On other hand, many people lie to someone, or tell what is known as a white lie, because they are genuinely concerned about how much the truth will hurt you.

But studies have shown that it’s very hard for people to tell if someone is being genuine or fake. This becomes especially tricky if the person is a good actor or can put on a really good poker face and, of course, if you are not really good at reading people. The latter involves not just reading between the lines or their tone of voice but also their entire body language. It also involves having an understanding of the full context behind what you are being told. Ha, ha…I suppose you need to be a proper mentalist in order not to get fooled.

Many people are genuine but there are plenty who are not and will say and do things for you, not because they are being genuine but because it’s in their best interest.

For example, take a subordinate at work or any co-worker. If he or she compliments you on your outfit, you might say ‘thank you’ and smile but I’ll bet that deep down you’re wondering if they really did like your outfit or if they were being nice to you to win brownie points. In fact, you might know that they were not being genuine and they know that you know and you know they know but because it’s important to have a congenial work environment, you both smile, say ‘thank you’ and get on with the day’s work.

If, after an interview, a potential employer says he’ll call, can you tell if he’s being genuine or just politely trying to end an interview? Likewise, if a potential employer decides to give you a heads-up about you getting the job, is he being genuine? Don’t forget he may not be the only decision maker?

There are some days when you are absolutely certain someone is messing with you. For example, if you go into work looking not so great and someone compliments you on your appearance, you might think that person is actually being sarcastic or making fun of you and you might be right; that person is not being genuine. But in some instances, someone telling you that you look great is actually very genuine and that is at a hospital. When I went into surgery in the UK (back in 1991) one of my surgical team doctors walked past my bed and said ‘you look great’. I know I didn’t but I knew that his heart was in the right place and it was his incredible bedside manner that made me feel better. He was trying to cheer me up. That was being genuine.

But in some instances people are being genuine in order to encourage creativity but they are doing a disservice by being so. Telling an artist, for example, that his work is great when it clearly is not may not actually be being truthful and it gives false hope to an artist who wishes to become a professional. That artist might take your opinion to heart and end up making a fool of himself by approaching art sellers and galleries who might be brutal enough to say his work is not as good as he thinks, and that has happened.

This is all a real shame because there might be people out there who are genuine when they say they care about you or compliment you. They are the ones most adversely affected by you not being able to recognise their genuineness.

Those who are not being genuine know they’re being fake, you know they’re being fake and, in most cases, neither of you cares that they are. This is especially so in the boss-subordinate relationship where both know who’s who. The boss knows that, because he’s the boss, his subordinate may be complimenting him to win brownie points even though he knows he does not deserve it.

The key to recognising when someone is being genuine is to know their real character when they are not around you and when no one is around. That is the real test. 

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