Dealing with two-faced people, or those with passive-aggressive personalities can be the bane of a workplace, family or social circle existence. You know who I’m talking about–the person who you know for a fact says rude things about you behind your back, but when you ask them directly about it they widen their eyes and play innocent. If you pride yourself on being direct and open, two-faced folks will repel, disgust and ultimately amuse you. For the sensitive, thoughtful types, they create a special kind of mental hell. My advice, don’t get involved. Or keep interactions as limited as possible. Interpersonal relationships are a game to the two-faced person, and the less you engage, the better.
A friend was lamenting the other day about how hard it is to catch duplicitous people in the act, to have that a ha! moment where their words and actions come full circle to bite them in the ass (not to be confused with the Oprah ah ha! moment, which is something else entirely), with you in the front row watching. What my friend wanted was for people to be honest about their motivations, so everyone knows where they stand and can cooperate from there.
Not possible with the two-faced contingent. Disingenuous behavior is rooted in a deep, profound insecurity. It serves to make the person unknowable to others, thereby obscuring the true self-image of loathing, doubt and intense vulnerability. The sense of self is either non-existent or so fragile, it could shatter from the smallest exposure. Hence the need to “throw shade”, to play people against each other, say one thing and do another. The purpose is to confuse and entrap others to create a diversion, so the real issues can’t be seen. Don’t try to disentangle the lies or make sense of any of it. Just know that someone with a black hole where their personality should be is trying desperately to survive. Sad, isn’t it?
At a previous job, a supervisor used to congratulate me on the fine work I was doing, and tell me what a bright future lay ahead. She would jokingly congratulate herself for spotting and hiring great talent. Then I’d hear reluctant feedback from another supervisor about how I was being perceived as arrogant, entitled, not a team player and reckless. Putting two-and-two together, I knew these were not the words of the speaker, but the commentary of my constant congratulator. I began to sense she was playing me, because she would often come to me to breathily complain about certain colleagues, using the same words. Her game was to be seen as the supportive, mentoring boss while her brittle ego required her to tear down anyone she saw as a threat. Pathetic.
Duplicity serves to exert control over those who come into contact, in order to manipulate and serve its own ends. For the two-faced person it’s often to cover a hole so deep and dark inside, that its exposure would cause a total collapse. Healthy, well-adjusted people don’t do it. At best, disingenuity is irritating to be around, knowing someone is talking shit about the person they’ll be palling around with later. At worst, it’s a terrible, infectious disease that destroys whole micro-cultures (see: the office gossip).
To keep sane, limit your involvement to the extent possible. Just smile and nod, feigning interest and understanding. Do not spend one second attempting to make sense of the behaviors, or piece together the lies. Practice pity. The two-faced person before you is in terrible pain. Imagine the stark loneliness of being entirely unknowable, the terrible exhaustion of always having to run a step ahead of the deceit, the tax taken by extreme concentration to keep the fragments pieced together. Trust me, your single-faced quality of life is infinitely higher.
Thanks for thinking of me Kate! I think the danger for is when this person is in a place of power, so I’m compelled to play their game, or be punished. I’m already seeing that happen. I tried to have an honest conversation, and my hours were slashed.
It’s SO hard when it’s someone who’s in charge of your paycheck. There’s always some need of their going unmet, so I try to assess what it is and then kill them with it! Easier said than done.
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