Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about conversation I had with a classmate back in high school. I don’t remember much of what led us to the topic of conversation or what followed it; in fact, there is only one thing from the conversation that really stuck with me. While talking to this classmate, she noted how there were so many people who acted one way around her and a completely different way around other people; she remarked how "fake" those people were and how she couldn’t stand people like that. She mentioned that no one should act differently simply because they are in the presence of different people, whether it be their friends, a stranger, or their parents.
The reason that this piece of the conversation stayed with me was the sheer confusion that the statement gave me. For the life of me, I could not – and still cannot – figure out why she felt that acting differently around different people makes a person “fake” or insincere. To me, it almost seems like this is something that should be expected.
Every person is different on multiple dimensions. Different people expect and desire different things out of friendships. Moreover, people have different comfort zones depending on who is around them.
Think about it: you have close friends who have seen your weirder side and are no longer surprised by your quirks or possibly odd behaviors. However, not all of your friends are your closest friends, so those friends with whom you are not as close to might not be as receptive to or unfazed by some of your behaviors, attitudes, or sense of humor. Thus, you more than likely have some friends that you are completely uncensored around, while you have other friends with whom you are more sensitive or thoughtful about your behavior.
The closer you grow to a person, the more comfortable you become around that person; thus, the longer you have known someone, the more your comfort zone grows around that person. This quite often translates to you acting less reserved around this person than around someone who you do not know as well. Therefore, the longer you know a person, the more your true colors really show through, seeing as you are more comfortable around them and they are more comfortable around you.
Another reason that people might act different around different people is that with different relationships come different expectations. Relationships with friends normally include knowledge of and sensitivity to emotional needs, while relationships with acquaintances include less devotion simply because there is less knowledge being shared about each other. Thus, being less sensitive to a person’s needs is not a result of a lack of caring, but is more likely the result of a lack of knowledge; you can’t expect a person to be sensitive to a need that they are not aware of.
Finally, the nature of a relationship has a significant effect on how one behaves around another person. It is to be expected that a person acts differently around their parents than they do around their friends. That doesn’t necessarily mean that just because one’s parents aren’t around, they automatically start misbehaving; it just means that behavior and interactions between a parent and their child is far different from those between friends.
Just because a person acts differently around you than they do around other people, that doesn’t automatically make them “fake.” Maybe they are just less open and comfortable around you than they are with their closer friends. Maybe they are more aware of the needs of their closer friends. Whatever the reason, there is no baseline behavior that needs to be applied to every single person in one’s life. It is to be expected that behavior shifts and changes around different people, and there is nothing wrong with that.