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To truly understand the concept of Emotional Intelligence (of which being a “Social Chameleon” is a dimension), I urge you to read the book by Daniel Goleman titled “Emotional Intelligence”.
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a SOCIAL skill, and it has a number of key dimensions that can be used to assess any person in a bid to gauge his or her proficiency or competence with respect to that ability. No one is “born” with a fixed EI. You can develop your EI by learning.
One important dimension of EI is “Interpersonal Effectiveness: The Ability to Get Along With Others – Including People You Do Not Like”.
Now, this is why EI is a skill that has to be learned. Not everyone can manage to see this through (i.e. getting along with others) successfully. Yet, learning how to do so, could determine how successful one will be in life – especially if one chooses to function in a social environment that places high premium on that dimension of EI.
Getting along with others requires one to make positive/good impressions on people they interact with. It requires being able to quickly determine what those they relate with “like” or are “interested” in, so as to skillfully/subtly align themselves in a way that makes such persons “think or feel” you share similar likes or interests.
Those who are able to master this skill of “Effective Impressions Management”, quite often achieve their goal of having successful relationships with many different kinds of people, in different social environments. And in many cases, this ability helps them succeed in professions/vocations such as – acting, trial law, sales, diplomacy, and politics – where one may find him/herself having to relate with person(s) s/he dislikes.
They consequently become “Social Chameleons” – persons able to change or adapt themselves more or less at will to suit the social environment they find themselves in.
And that leads me to the point of this article’s title. When someone with this ability takes it to the negative extreme, where s/he begins to apply it without “integrity”. That is, when s/he does it without being true to his/her inner values. I mean, when s/he becomes DUPLICITOUS – deliberately showing one face to the world, while hiding his/her true self on the inside, with a view to DECEIVING and MANIPULATING others for ulterior benefits. At this point s/he would have become an ANCHORLESS Social Chameleon!
In case you still have not gotten it, the ANCHORLESS Social Chameleon is the person who uses his/her interpersonal skill/”social polish” in a DISHONEST way, so as to exploit those s/he relates with. Another word for it, as earlier mentioned is DUPLICITY – the quality of being TWO-FACED (Not Idibia O!), or “speaking from both sides of the mouth”. You NEVER know what people like this really believe or stand for – especially on ethical or moral issues.
In society, they are the people who jump from one political party platform to another at the slightest hint that better fortunes can be had from doing so. Today, they are speaking in support of one cause, and tomorrow against it. It’s often about them and how what they do ultimately benefits them. They use their skills to assess which of two or more opposing groups has the greatest chance of winning, and skillfully play themselves up to where they’ll benefit the most.
When people like this exist in large numbers in any society, quite often REAL development, or positive changes that can benefit the larger majority, take longer to happen. This is because in such places, selflessness tends to be a quality that is abhorred. The few who are willing to act selflessly in that manner will frequently find themselves getting used by such anchorless social chameleons, to get ahead – leading to the former’s frustration!
Any social group or organisation that wishes to develop and progress (be it a company, family, association, or nation) needs to ensure that its members are “coached” as early as possible in life to (as Daniel Goleman put it) “use their social polish more in keeping with their true feelings…” so that they can act in accordance with their “deepest feelings and values no matter what the social consequences”.
Everyone has the ability to LEARN or DEVELOP his/her EI. So long as a child is given early coaching towards identifying and developing the various dimensions of EI, she will over time grow into a socially competent adult – one able to engage in reasonably balanced – and successful – interactions with others.
What I have however found important to focus on, with respect to this important “meta” ability, is that having EI should not be used by ANYONE as an excuse to be “insincere or duplicitous”, in order to be “popular”.
In a couple of instances, I have had certain individuals express the opinion that another person was not acting with EI, because that person refused to compromise on certain fronts with them. Or maybe s/he was unwilling to grant them certain concessions they requested. Does that really mean a person is NOT Emotionally Intelligent? Are we to believe that Emotionally Intelligent people are those who do NOT say NO to other people’s requests?
My answer, which I know is the right answer to the above questions is NO. Being Emotionally Intelligent does NOT mean you will no longer be able to say NO to people who ask you to do something you do NOT want to do – especially if you are CONVINCED you have a good reason not to.
Indeed, I would say that the onus falls on the other person to ASK you why you are saying NO – especially if you had not done so in the past. Assuming that you, as the person asking a favour, are the only one with valid needs that require priority attention is a MASSIVE lapse of Emotional Intelligence. Why is this so? Get Goleman’s book, and read it to find out.
FINAL WORDS: So, now that you’ve read this, let’s go back to my question-format title: Are You a Social Chameleon?
If your answer is YES, I congratulate you on having that level of self-mastery that is sure to open doors for you, in your relationships with others.
HOWEVER, and this is IMPORTANT, it is crucial that you stay alert to the need to avoid crossing over to the extreme negative end of this ability scale, where you begin to function without EMOTIONAL INTEGRITY. Fail to do this, and you will become the ANCHORLESS Social Chameleon described above – which could cause you major embarrassment if another person (possibly a “Social Chameleon” with integrity) – decides to take you up!
NB: You can Google “Emotional Intelligence” and “Social Chameleon” to learn more.