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Recognizing Sincerity

Q: How do you know when a friend is being sincere?

In person conversation is a risk and exposes us in two ways. In her book Reclaiming Conversation, Sherry Turkle describes the way texting and online chatting have threatened true friendship because they allow us to plan and curate the versions of ourselves that we bring to our discussions. When we lose facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice, and can consider and edit our replies, the risks face-to-face conversation are lessened if not eliminated. It allows us to present our “perfect” self. But this also begs our question above, how do we know this fine-tuned response is sincere?

One way to better gauge sincerity is to talk to your friends face-to-face. Then communication with your friend will include body language (55% of communication), tone of voice (30%), as well as the words used (15%). Just because your friend tells you something via text, messenger, WhatsApp, or whatever other oddly named app you and your friends text on, does not mean they are not being sincere. But as Turkle points out, it does remove a significant piece of how humans communicate and could be a watered down or finely polished response that lacks sincerity.

The second exposure of face-to-face conversation is revealing your true self. It is more difficult, but still possible, to only show your “perfect” self. IRL with others is risky because we get to see both the good and the bad pieces of others and vice versa. When your friend shares an umbrella with a stranger, you see her as being generous. When your friend tells another driver he’s #1 with his left hand, you see he can get irritated. When your friend invites someone sitting alone to eat with your group, you see he is inclusive. When your friend loses her cool over a board game, you see she is competitive. Experiencing one another through doing real life together allows us to begin to really know each other and then we begin to have a gauge for when our friends are being authentic. When you authentically know your friends, you will get better at judging if they are being sincere. That does not mean you will always be able to tell when and if your friends are being sincere because insincerity is something all humans do and some are really good at hiding it. But, as you live life with and get to know friends face-to-face, you can grow in knowing when they are being sincere.


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