‘Sincerity – If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.’
George Burns was talking about acting, but as a maxim for success in life, he was probably correct. Who wouldn’t like the person who tells them what they want to hear? Would you really dislike someone who appears to see qualities in you that you weren’t even aware you possessed? On a more basic level, aren’t we all inclined to trust people who seem happy and good-natured? Aren’t we drawn to people who appear compassionate?
If you can fake all that, well yes, you probably have got it made.
The problem for the majority of ‘fakers’ is that pretending to be sincere is very difficult, especially for long periods.
How often have you been mid-conversation and had the sudden feeling that you were being played? It might not happen the first time you speak to someone but, eventually, you’ll catch them out. Maybe in the middle of a conversation you’ll see his/her eyes glaze over and realise they have absolutely no interest in whatever you’re saying. Or you might glance at the face of someone who is smiling and see dead eyes looking back at you. A friend told me she turned to face somebody who was pretending to be happy for her and was met with eyes blazing with fury.
I don’t even think total psychopaths can pull off insincerity for long. Eventually people notice something is wrong. Ted Bundy’s girlfriend suspected he was a murderer and, despite being ignored by the police, she was so convinced something was wrong that she reported him on three separate occasions.
But, hopefully, most of us will never run into dangerous psychopaths. We are more likely to have to deal with people who use insincerity to get something from us or to succeed in life or in the workplace.
One such person is Dan, a character in my thriller ‘Girl Targeted.’ Dan wants everyone to think he’s a nice guy. It puts people off their guard and makes it easier to manipulate them. It’s an act he can’t keep up for long, however, and people who have prolonged contact see a very different side of him. But, for those with whom he has limited contact, he plays the part of the smiling, nice guy. Behind their backs, it’s a very different story. Unfortunately for Dan, he’s not a great actor. Neither is he very perceptive. He has no idea that to the majority of people he is trying to con, his insincerity is quite transparent.