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How to Deal with Insincere People

I recently received a letter from someone I know slightly, and had assumed the acquaintance we shared was mutually pleasant. After all in the past we had chatted when we met, had gone for coffee when time allowed at chance meetings and had generally treated each other in a friendly and collegial manner.

In context, the letter was a thank you for my years heading up a committee and to recognise the volume of work the role had required over the last few years. In reality, the letter was less of a thank you and more of a 'f' you - or that is how it and a second communication on a different but linked matter came across. It was a perfect example of 10/10 for getting the task done in a timely manner and minus a billion/10 for sincerity.

Tone is so important in letters and emails. It is so easy to be misunderstood or misinterpreted because of a lack of appropriate punctuation, inappropriate use of the caps lock key or incorrect grammar all of which influence the tone of your written communication. However in this instance, what was screamingly clear was the lack of sincerity.

Whenever someone tells you "the (insert appropriate group) voted to thank you for your involvement" and then signs of the communication with nary another comment, you know it was written with a lack of sincerity so stark that it makes Donald Trump look like a paragon of virtue and honesty.

Common parlance for this behaviour as per that fount of much popular knowledge - Google - came up with the following alternate descriptions of this behaviour.

  • two faced, fake, hollow, artificial, feigned, put on, counterfeit, backhanded, Janus- Faced, mealy mouthed, disingenuous, toxic, passive aggressive, smarmy, obsequious...I could go on

I'm known for calling a spade a spade, which insincere people find incredibly confronting, especially when work related. So what do you do when faced with people who lack sincerity at work, or anywhere else for that matter?

  • Remember your P.I.P (People Interaction Principles) © - be kind, be polite, be considerate. It's very difficult for the insincere person to feel like they have 'won' when the person they want to undermine conducts themselves this way.

  • Repeate the following Michelle Obama saying as a mantra "when they go low, we go high"

  • Acknowledge to yourself what they are doing, and make an effort to move on. Document it in your diary, tell a great friend, write a letter (then shred it), and then back away and leave it alone rather than respond.

  • Don't respond - it's not worth the effort and it may be throwing fuel on a fire that they want lit. Insincere people are often emotional pyromaniacs.

  • Don't play their passive aggressive games: passive aggression is a defensive process that allows people who aren't comfortable being openly aggressive to get what they want under the appearance of still trying to please others. They want their own way, but also want others to like them. There is a disconnect between what they says versus what they do (What is passive aggressive behaviour?)

  • If you are struggling to maintain your P.I.P. © stick with being civil as your baseline behaviour.

  • Avoid sharing you thoughts, hopes and feelings with them. It's just fuel for that fire I mentioned. This can be really hard to do in a work context. So stick to only sharing work information, in an appropriate setting (team meeting, team emails) and with supporting background detail to backup your work/position.

  • Remember this person is not your friend so don't like them on social media!

  • Don't sign up for voluntary projects/work with them! At least not until you are better able to cope with their disingenuity.

  • Tell someone! Tell your manager, supervisor, a trusted work colleague what you are experiencing. If the behaviour is overt and easily identifiable (and you have clear evidence of it) it may be moving into the area of bulling or harassment. And there is Zero Tollerance for that shit once the line has been crossed.

  • Remember: some people are just jerks.


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