There’s a big, bold line between being polite and being fake. I’m an advocate for authenticity, meaning everyone should be comfortable enough to be their true self no matter what the context is. Sadly, the world doesn’t work that way.
The Internet has this culture of calling out people for being “fake.” The most critical people call out microexpressions, turns of phrase, and actions they don’t feel are real—which makes for a very toxic space. Some of these people take it a step further. They bring this attitude into the real world.
Be it in your personal or professional life, you will encounter people and situations that will make you uncomfortable. Maybe it’s a coworker or a manager that you just don’t get along with, or a party that you’ve been coerced into attending. This discomfort will most likely prompt you to act in a certain way. Probably a fake laugh or a forced smile, which is par for the course if you’re just trying to survive an unwanted social interaction.
Eagle-eyed people who don’t like you, though, can misconstrue this as being fake.
What is (and isn’t) “fake?”
The word “fake” is defined as being untrue, not genuine, or not real. But being “fake” is a different story. Being fake is usually associated with pretentiousness. Let’s say you meet someone you don’t particularly like in a formal setting. Etiquette dictates that you still greet them with a smile, which you do.
Again, people watching—or the person you’re greeting—can chalk up this interaction as being fake. But what is it, really?
It’s called being an adult.
Being fake is still something that can happen of course, but let’s not confuse it with being polite. Being fake means leaning into the pretense of something and fully presenting it as a truth—all while talking smack about it behind closed doors.
You probably already have someone in mind, but let me add a little bit more color to the description. We all have that one relative who loves coming up to you and complimenting you on your outfit or anything else. But what they say when you aren’t around is a different story.
When they’re in front of you, they’re showering you with praise and all the flatter that could possibly come to mind. But when you’re out of hearing range, they’ll go on about things like your job, your weight, relationship status, et cetera.
They’re usually spinning dual narratives to you and those who are closest to you. An awfully irritating and possibly confidence diminishing habit.
The main difference
For most of our adult lives, we’ll be forced to do something we don’t want to. As much as capitalism likes to advertise itself as an opportunity to work yourself up to success, not many people actually want to work to be able to survive.
In order to live as an adult in the world, we’re all going to have to suck it up. Maturity means being polite, regardless of how you feel about the situation or the person in question. In short, it’s a survival mechanism.
Take the same relative I mentioned earlier. Being a member of the same family will mean you’ll eventually bump into them at a gathering. Greeting them with a beso or a mano is something you probably won’t want to do. The thing is, though, you still have to do it.
For the sake of your parents, the rest of the family, and the general peace of the party, you’ll have to grin and bear it. Greet them, smile, but you can opt out of engaging in further conversation. If you do, you can keep it to a respectful minimum and try to not say anything they can use as ammo.
The difference between you and the hypothetical (but most likely existing) relative is that you’re not maxing out your acting points during the interaction. The Filipino family—and most of society—is hierarchical in structure. This means even though you don’t think the person deserves the respect they’re given, you still have to follow the rules and play nice.
So greet that relative, make small talk with that co-worker, but keep it to a minimum and don’t invest too much of your time and effort into it. Stay respectful, mature, and as much as possible, authentic to yourself.
As much as it pains me to say this, going through things that you don’t enjoy does in fact make you stronger. Social skills are a muscle you have to exercise, and these interactions will make your instincts and general approach sharper.
You can also use this type of interaction to remember that being polite to others will just make you happier (and you know, look better).
The holidays are coming up again, which means most of us will probably have to go through unwanted social situations. If anyone ever says something behind your back, just remember that you’re most likely the bigger person and you’re putting your survival first.