April 18, 2012

The 3 Key Ways to Create Genuine Relationship Success Or Why "Fake It until You Make It" Might Not Work For You

Today, we have a guest post by Patrick Ewers, founder of Mindmavin:

Three Key Ways to Create Genuine Relationships

  1. Smile

  2. Be Yourself

  3. Don't Fake it

A lot of people share this advice: "If you're not quite sure, fake it until you make it." This might work in the areas of knowledge and expertise. At times, you just don't have a choice but you have to bridge a gap of knowledge here and there. However, when it comes to relationships and relationship management, and specifically expressing how you feel and what you think, taking this advice is a very risky proposition and something I recommend you should not do. Why? Because we're talking about relationships here and humans seem to have this uncanny ability to see things that haven't been said. So how is that possible? Well, let's start at the source of it all - our brain.

Our brain is believed to have grown over three times in size over the last 2.6 million years. Most of the growth is actually attributed to allow for managing the complex relationships we have today. You can consider calling it a Social Network Processing Engine, as it helps us coordinate teamwork, develop caring and empathetic relationships with offspring and other people we love, as well as to differentiate between who belongs to us and who does not (and therefore, possibly poses a threat to us). The one thing we know about our brain today is that it is capable of processing an amazing amount of information and signals and does that specifically when it comes to interacting with our fellow humans. The one thing we know for sure is that we actually don't know much about our brain and how it works yet. There are still too many secrets to be unveiled and discovered. So, if you want to fake it out, you are indeed taking a step into the unknown.

The Science of Smiles

Let me illustrate this with a specific example. Did you know there is a science of smiles? What researchers at U.C. Berkeley and other institutions have found out is that there is something you can call a "genuine smile" and something else that you might want to call a "service smile." The "service smile," also known as the "Pan American smile," is a smile that is typically used to simply entertain or to dramatize a specific point. It is often driven through a decision to use a smile to deliver a controlled experience to the people we are interacting with. A "Pan American smile" typically involves just lifting the muscles around your mouth. Good places to see these smiles are on TV or in a restaurant when you have a server who is not having a good day but still tries to smile at you. I'm sure you've run into such a situation at a restaurant before, right? The "genuine smile," also known as the Duchenne smile, is slightly different. It is a smile that is actually linked to real feelings of joy and happiness. It's a smile you use when you are laughing at a joke, responding to a compliment, or because you've seen an image or scene that made you feel good. The major difference here is that you are not only smiling with your mouth muscles, but you are also smiling with muscles around your eyes, as well as using other muscles. The interesting thing about this smile is that many muscles you are moving at that time are outside of your voluntary control, which means you can't choose to utilize them for your smile. That makes the big difference between the "service smile" and the "genuine smile.". People are really capable of differentiating between these smiles to tell when they are real and when they aren't, even if it is processed mainly on a subconscious level. What that means to you is that you will only be smiling the Duchenne smile if you are actually feeling happy and excited, and you are in that state of mind that allows you to truly express your state of joy. Let me underscore this with an example.

I'm sure you've been to restaurants before where you've had an amazing waiter and at other times, an average waiter or a waiter you didn't even like. If you take the latter waiter, he was most likely serving you correctly and was smiling but for some reason, you didn't feel the service was amazing. Now compare that to the experience where you had a server who was just absolutely amazing. He was fun, he was humorous, and he was there. First and foremost, he seemed to be content and happy with what he was doing (serving you). This waiter was probably also smiling at you but this smile came across as much more real and heartfelt. That was driven by the fact that he truly enjoyed his job and was having a good day. Now, imagine if both of these scenarios were actually the same person, just at different times. One day, he was having a bad time, another day, he was having a good time. It made all the difference between you thinking you had a great waiter or one of the worse you've ever seen.

Why Not To Fake It

So the point is, if you're trying to fake it or, if you put it more softly, you are merely trying to entertain, there are certain signals you will not send simply because you do not have control over them. Those signals will be missed by the people who are interacting with you. Most people will never realize this on a conscious level.. They simply may think things like, "There is something off with that guy. He was certainly energetic, but do I trust him?" "You know, she seemed good, but should we keep looking for someone else?" If you look at these scenarios, you have to ask yourself if it is worth the risk of trying to fake it or is it worth not being genuine for the sake of dramatizing and impressing. On top of that, when you are in the mode of faking it, you will also have to use a lot of self-control and energy to cover the fact that you are not being yourself. It is a state that isn't natural to you and you have to manage that process too. For many people, it drives the insecurity up. If you are feeling insecure, you are sending those signals over as well and people will respond to it in one way or another. Or perhaps you can simply harvest better results by being genuinely you.

Why Is It Great To Simply Be You?

If you are genuinely true to yourself, if you are saying what you're thinking, feeling, or living, people will not register any dissonance. What that means is that people are more inclined to believe you. Now, they might not like what they hear when you say what you believe or feel, but they are at least prone to buy it. They may think, "She's young and she's got a lot to learn, but I liked her and I think she's got a lot of potential." Or they may say, "You know, meeting Dave was so cool. What I liked about him most is that I think he's real." On top of that, when you are yourself, you are already in a state that you're very comfortable with. You will most likely have a high level of self-confidence in any scenario that you may have to face and you won't have to bring up any extra energy to manage something you're not.

Isn't Being Myself a Luxury in Today's World?

You might say, "I do not have the luxury of saying what I believe or feel in most situations." I would respond to that by saying that I don't think it is a luxury but a necessity for the long run. If you find yourself often in situations where people do not like who you are, what you believe in, and what you feel, then maybe you are simply in the wrong place or with the wrong people. I personally think that's a situation I would not want to wish on anyone. If there's one thing of which I'm certain, there are enough people out there for you to find the right situation (as long as your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are not too extreme). So go and find a situation where people will actually like what you say because it is truly you. It is one bet with awesome odds on finding happiness. Now, like most everything, it's not a black and white story. It's a scale with extremes on both ends. There are always trade-offs and at times, the best tool may be to actually change your mind. But if you do, be sure that your new way of thinking becomes genuinely who you are.

So Let's Sum It Up

When it comes to relationships, "fake it until you make it" will be a challenging strategy and most likely do more damage than it lets you "make it." The reason is simple. Your brain is a Relationship Processing Engine with so many intriguing facets that we can't even begin to understand how it all works. In many cases, you will be much better off being genuine by simply being yourself. Most likely, it will lead to deeper, more meaningful relationships and hopefully through that, to a more content and fulfilling life.

About the Author: Patrick Ewers

I am the founder of Mindmavin, a company focused on helping professionals generate great opportunities from their existing networks. These typically come to you in the form of referrals. By introducing Best Practices, technology and specially trained resources, we allow you to stay top-of mind with those people that matter most. Being top-of-mind drives the ability of your network to think of you at the time they hear about an opportunity you care about. We are lucky to call some of Silicon Valley's top rainmakers our clients.

If you'd like to learn more about Mindmavin, please check out our website (www.mindmavin.com) or email me at Patrick@mindmavin.com