#12: Phony Baloney

Posted on July 24, 2013


$3 bill

One of my favorite business coaches, Michael Port, often talks about how he tried out a stint as a actor before starting his own coaching practice. He jokes that almost everyone he met in L.A. during that time was fake. See, Michael believes that being truly authentic is essential to building trust with clients, so he likes to give anecdotes about how phoniness is not just embarrassingly transparent but ineffective. 

This wasn’t always the case, but now a prerequisite for any relationship in my life is authenticity. This doesn’t mean that when I first meet someone I expect them to tell me their life story, to remove their personal filter or to overshare. Rather, I expect that the other person will be real. I want to see some signs that the other person is okay with who he/she is. Any signs of phoniness is a huge turn-off. 

What I’ve noticed is that phony people aren’t okay with who they are. Which means that, at some point in your relationship with them, they’re not going to be okay with who you are. Any kind of honest or open communication from you means that you’re going to get some kind of judgy response from them.  

When I first had my son, I joined a mom’s group, hoping to have some emotional support from other new moms. Tired, stressed and doubting all of my abilities as a new parent, I remember meeting another mom in this group who, at first, seemed very nice. I told her how much I had wanted children and yet didn’t realize how difficult the journey was going to be.  “He never sleeps more than 3 hours at a time,” I said. “And some days I feel like I’m going crazy.” 

She turned her nose up at me and perceptibly huffed. “Well,” she said, “I love EVERY moment of being a mom. I feel honored to be entrusted with such a big responsibility. Children are God’s blessing.” And then she smiled a big, phony grin. 

At the time I wondered if there was something wrong with me. Why didn’t I love every moment? Why wasn’t I more grateful? Hadn’t I wanted children? What was wrong with me that I was struggling so much? 

The best part of this story is that, a few weeks later, I was at Trader Joe’s when I heard a woman in the next aisle screaming at her kids. And rightfully so. Her two children were running around the entire supermarket like hell on wheels. “Jason! Emily! Don’t touch that! Stop trying to climb into the freezer! Emily don’t pull your brother’s hair! Jason, stop hitting your sister!”  

I looked over to see whose kids were driving this woman mad. And guess who it was? Yep, the woman who claimed to be loving every moment of parenting. I can tell you in that moment, with her hair askew, her face contorted into an angry grimace and her nerves shot, I probably should have offered her a compassionate look. I should have taken the high road and given her some words of encouragement. But I couldn’t help myself. I gave her a big, phony grin and walked away. 

When someone’s phony baloney, it’s best not to let them into your circle of confidantes. They feel the need to be fake for a reason and authenticity really is the key to building trust in any relationship.