There’s no denying it sometimes life’s an emotional roller-coaster ride! One day the world’s our oyster and at other times we wonder why on earth we got out of bed. These are, of course, the vicissitudes of life and if we were hermits we could indulge in the relevant emotional responses to our situation.
On top of the world and just want to sing and shout about it? Hermits can do that, and at the top of their voices. Down in the dumps or furiously angry and just want to throw things? Great – hermits don’t need to worry, so get to it and indulge yourself. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to be a hermit sometimes?
But I bet you can see the problem in that approach to life! I doubt if any of us are hermits, and while we might be able to get some time of hermit-like existence on the rare occasion, in truth we are a gregarious lot and need to co-exist with others around us who may be having their own emotional outbursts.
Can you image what Monday morning at work would be like if we all decided to share our emotional mood? Hmmm – scary thought. Actually we have learned from a very early age to adopt specific masks for the masquerade of life. It’s as if we are all actors in a play when we haven’t seen the script. Shakespeare’s seven ages of man can give us the outline, but the details are only revealed slowly.
An actor adopts the personality of the character he is playing and the closer he can identify with the part he plays the more successful he is in getting the audience to believe in the truthfulness of the character. Many centuries ago actors actually put on masks behind which they hid their own character and personality. Not only did it make it easier for them to change, it gave the audience an indication of the character being depicted.. In the middle ages and up to the eighteenth century the masquerades gave the guests the luxury of hiding behind a mask so that they could change personalities for the night. Putting on a mask means that we can become someone else and the type of mask we adopt can affect the type of personality we act out.
In inter-personal relationships we all adopt masks, often to become the sort of person who would be acceptable in that situation. If we are at a business meeting we can adopt the mask of a cool, calm and competent person. Our mask indicates that we are attentive and engaged – while underneath we are really a steaming heap of resentment at that idiot who cut us off at the lights and nearly wiped out the front of the car. Our audience will only see that mask and believe the character.
Society has labelled the wearing of masks as courtesy and politeness, and it is probably true that it is a courtesy not to let the whole world know precisely how we feel today. Sharing emotions is something we have learned to do only with our close friends and family – because sharing our emotions is baring our soul, and we can find that very traumatic.
But in a business situation it is even more important that we do not indulge in personal emotional outbursts. If we are trying to persuade that company executive that he truly needs to sign the contract like now – then we will not be helping our cause if we regale him with the frustrations of the morning first. And while your customer may be truly delighted with the news that you have won an overseas holiday it may not bring them any closer to buying that car you are trying to sell them.
Masks help us to project a character that is applicable to the situation, They are a way of ensuring that we can get through the day without bringing our highs and lows into the workplace. Masks can also help us create the person we would like to be, and nervous speakers in our courses are often reminded that “Fake it until you make it” is a very good way to instill the sense of confidence that may be lacking. If we put on the mask of confidence as we rise to begin that presentation, our nervous self is hidden behind it and while we are playing the part we can become used to the feeling and reproduce it when necessary.
People react to what they see and how we behave towards them. Our masks can change that for us, If we are angry but need to seem in control then we adopt the mask of a calm and controlled person. If we are feeling tired, but we need to demonstrate enthusiasm we put on the enthusiastic mask, and our customers and clients will react to the mask just like the audiences of old.
The only problem with adopting masks is that we can sometimes choose the wrong mask for the occasion. The nervous guy desperately trying to impress his new girlfriend adopts the mask of a party animal and ruins his chances! And what about the sales assistant who masks her passionate commitment to her products and comes across as if she doesn’t care and loses the sale. Both chose the wrong mask for the occasion and suffered the consequences.
The trick with using masks is to make sure we know which mask we are wearing. So as an exercise consider what mask you are wearing right now and do you really think that it is appropriate for the moment
Tell me, are you wearing the mask of a go-getting tiger or merely sitting and purring like a pussycat! Ahhh the masquerade of life – aint it a ball!!
Michele @ Trischel
Wearing the mask of a highly intellectual writer – as if!!