“I have never been the same person alone that I am with people. ” (Phillip Roth) I can directly relate with this quote, I’m sure quite a few people can. So often, we act differently in private than we do with others. Of course, it’s all dependent upon who the ‘others’ are. For example, we may feel more comfortable being our true selves with our friends and become more reserved with colleagues. This is not necessarily how all humans behave, some folks have no problem being exactly who they are at all times no matter whose company they are in.
I admire this quality when it is not coming from someone I perceive as obnoxious. Certainly, factors such as perception, culture, and the people we are communicating with will influence how we behave in public as opposed to private. Most immediately, I think how we perceive ourselves and how we think other people perceive us will influence our behavior in given situations. We’re all so different and our experiences tend to shape our personalities. Some of us are naturally outgoing and social, while others are more introverted and feel best without the company of others.
Both scenarios present their own challenges and behaviors will be influenced by these tendencies. It’s generally very easy and preferred for the introverted personality to go through their day without the company of another, while a more extroverted individual might feel very lonely without another’s company. How these two behave in group functions will also vary. The outgoing individual will be very much in his element, and more likely to be cheerful and positive. An introverted person will be more shy and standoffish within the group.
These are merely characteristics that go together, as presented in the book under the implicit personality theory. In either case, the behavior of the individual will vary whether they are alone or with people. And this scenario is a more natural occurrence. Sometimes situations arise where we want others to see us as something we are not and we’ll present ourselves in a certain manner that is not true to who we are, just to fit in or gain the trust of that particular group. When alone, we may let ourselves behave more naturally and feel less obliged to pretend.
Cultures also influence how we behave in public and alone. Some cultures do not allow women to be in public without a headdress, while at home they are allowed to be more relaxed. In our American culture, Christianity teaches that women should be submissive to their husbands, so behaviors will exemplify this in a church setting or when out with church friends. At home, the wife may be the one who makes the final decisions, and the family will behave as such in that particular setting. Finally, the people with which we are communicating will impact what we say and how we say it.
We communicate very differently when alone with our romantic partner, as opposed to being with him or her in public. The same is true for our relationships with parents, siblings, neighbors, casual friends or close friends. The words we choose and the tone that we use with any of these communications will vary from person to person and in private or amongst others. Every situation is completely unique. As a novelist, Phillip Roth presented many fine quotes with regard to communication. It was a good exercise to apply what I’ve learned from the text and be able to expand upon this particular quotation.
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