Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Futility of faking Emotions

In a group of people, it is interesting to notice how we share common opinions about each other. We often hate or like things in common. For example, in a group, if I find one guy to be very kind and generous, it is highly likely that most of the group members feel the same way. Similarly, if I find one guy in the same group not to be trustworthy, it is again highly likely that most of the group members share the opinion. It is as if we are all naturally equipped with this ability to judge the intentions of people we interact with.

Imagine this situation - two friends A and B meet accidentally after a long time. A is going through a great phase in life and is in a mood to share everything with B. But, B is having a tough time and is not interested to indulge in a lengthy conversation. Now, without B explicitly telling A that he is not interested in a long conversation, I would safely bet that A would get the subtle message [assumption is A is a sensible guy!!] and keep the conversation short. I am sure all of us have been in the position of both A and B numerous times. The situation might be different, but the bottom-line of we being able to intrinsically and accurately perceive the emotions of people we interact with and react accordingly remains intact. Now, imagine what the situation would be if A did not have the ability to understand that B is not interested to listen to his life story, it would be nothing short of a disastrous conversation.., May be, the ability to understand the unexpressed emotions is critical part of human communication. 

We all have repeatedly heard and read that verbal communication forms only a small part of the communication. The rest is all non verbal communication. So, understandably all of us should have natural in built sensors to decode these fine non verbal messages. The sensors could be developed to different extent in different people. Few of us could have super sharp sensors where in just by looking at a person, we can accurately judge them. Few of us might have slightly blunt sensors, where in we need multiple interactions to accomplish the same. But, eventually, we will figure out the true intentions of the people we interact with.

This brings me to the actual question I had – is it possible to hide our true intentions and fake our emotions successfully? Is it necessary to do this and is it sustainable? If not, what is the alternative? From my little understanding, the answer to the first question is NO. It is NOT possible to consistently fake our emotions. We can manipulate our words, but it is hard to manipulate the non verbal communication. It is very easy to observe when there is a conflict between what one is thinking internally and what he/she is communicating externally. We can make this out even in response to a generic question like ‘did you like the food’. The fact of the matter is that we are interacting with human beings and not robots and they will eventually decode our true emotions, no matter how much we try to camouflage it. But, the sad part is that not everybody understands this, including me at times. It is pathetic to observe people when they try hard to be somebody they are not and are wrongly convinced that nobody noticed it. A simple example could be a co-worker who is self centered, but pretends hard to give an impression of a people person.

Given this, it is futile to fake our emotions and it is better if we just try to be our natural selves. Coming to the question of whether it is necessary to fake emotions in the first place, this is a tricky one and may be the answer is yes. We cannot always reveal out true intentions, but these situations are more of an exception than a rule.