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Social Chameleons

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Everyone knows what a chameleon is and how they change colors to fit into their environment. They are extremely smart in survival and knowing how to blend into the world around them. They adapt to whatever is around them to hide the real them.

I believe we also have social chameleons…people….that do this.

“Social chameleons have been defined as adepts in social intelligence, able to make a charming good impression, yet at the price of their own true motivations.”   Wikipedia

You may have met some. They are the ones that try to be everyone’s friend and agree with everyone just for the sake of making friends. They watch and are alert and pay attention to what people like and do not like and if you do not like a certain person….they will say they do not like that person. They act so good and so sweet that they seem almost too good to be true. And they are only I think we are just to taken by having someone who thinks what we say is so awesome and like having someone who praises us all the time that we do not realize that they are doing this to everyone. If you are against a certain thing, they will say they are to you. But, to those that like a certain thing…they will tell them they love and they so agree with them.. They are chameleons who change what they are according to the person(s) they are around. This sadly means they are not authentic but just being a people pleaser. They are good at talking to you and asking questions and learning things about you that you do not even realize you told them and then they use that information to mold themselves to someone who you personally like. And they do that for each person until the real person they are is so deeply hidden that no one sees it. Just like a chameleon.

“EVERYONE wants to make a good impression, but for some people it is almost a way of life.  Those who always try ”to be the right person in the right place at the right time,” according to Dr. Snyder, a social psychologist, become extraordinarily attuned to the ways others react to them. They continually monitor their social performance, skillfully adjusting it when they detect that they are not having the desired effect. Such people can swing with ease from bubbly sociability to reserved withdrawal, or even from conformity to nonconformity, as the situation demands, Dr. Snyder said. And while these same abilities make them skilled at lying, they are just as likely to apply them in smoothing social interactions. ”      Daniel Goleman

Social chameleons can begin in childhood. According to Dr. Snyder, they exhibit these traits as early as 7 years old. When given information and asked to form an opinion, social chameleons will pour over the information and over it and wait until everyone else has given an opinion before they will. As adults, when people are posting an opinion in a group, social chameleons will wait until last to see which group is the more popular and that is the opinion they will post.

According to Dr. Synder, the way to identify a social chameleon is by paying attention to someone who seems to agree with everything you say and tells you how wonderful you are and watch to see if they have these traits:

– They pay careful attention to social cues, scrutinizing others with keenness so as to know what is expected of them before making a response. (are they slow to give an opinion, waiting to see what others are saying before doing so? Do you catch them just watching others when everyone else is giving their opinion? If you are online, are they the last in a group to express their opinion when a new thought comes up? Do they ever change their opinion depending on what the majority is saying or who they are talking to?

– In order to get along and to be liked, they try to be as others expect them to be. For example, they try to make people they dislike think they are friendly with them. (Do they try to be friendly with both sides of a controversy? Do they keep friends that are people who have talked against the both of you?  Are you unsure of where they really stand by their words and actions with others?

– They use their social abilities to mold their appearance as disparate situations demand, so that, as some put it, ”With different people I act like a very different person.’  (I call this revolving door. Depending on which door (or which people) they are around as to what kind of person or words we will hear from them.

Dr. Icks says that those people who rely on living by their conscience and do not sway much on things are difficult people for social chameleons to get along with for they do not give them enough cues so that the social chameleon does not know how to play them or what traits to mimic to impress them.

“The real social chameleons that go from person to person being all things to all people are simply a blank slate in reality. They are either so damaged or so stunted that at some point in their growth they simply shut down and adopted a malleable yet likable persona – a simpleton of sorts that layers could be added or subtracted to depending upon the situation. The layers become a bit thicker through the years but the true person never changes and the values or belief system that make up anyone are simply not present in this core. It is built into the layers – layers that on some issues have both the positive and negative viewpoint to fulfill everyone’s dream for the perfect friend or lover.”   


Now, having said all this, does it mean that being adaptable or agreeing with someone at times when we really disagree makes us a social chameleon?  No, I do not think so. I think sometimes we agree to keep peace. I think the difference is if a person does it all the time and goes from person to person doing this all the time so that there seems to be no integrity in what they say. Then I think a person is a social chameleon.

Two things struck me about the real social chameleon. First was that it makes them adept at lying. So, how can you trust anything they say?  I find this kind of behavior manipulative and done only for the benefit of the social chameleon. The sad thing is the internet as vast as it is makes it very easy for a person to be a social chameleon and many people can eventually get hurt by it. Not the social chameleon but those that feel betrayed when they find out that the social chameleon really did not agree with them and was only manipulating them to get the attention or whatever it was they needed..

The other was the need for people to really be themselves and to be brave and speak up and say their opinion even if it is different from others you are talking to. Having a different opinion does not make you wrong. It just make you have a different opinion. Do not try to mold yourself to anyone elses views. I do not care if you love them and want to marry them, keep your own self and your own opinions and think for yourself. You are of value. What you think is of value and just because someone may disagree with you or even get mad at you for saying it, it still is of value because it is what you believe.

Does it mean you should not be friends with a social chameleon? Not necessarily. It means simply know that they are a social chameleon and that what they say is only mirroring what they think you want to hear. And the next person, they will do the same thing to them. When someone seems too good to be true…they probably are.

I was acquainted many years ago with a man who was known as a petty thief. Someone asked me once how I could be nice to him and talk to him. I said it was easy. I knew he was a thief and therefore knew what to expect from him. So, if he tried to steal from me…I would not be hurt for I knew ahead of time.

So the key is knowing…and knowing what to expect from a social chameleon…which is simply they are saying what they think each specific person wants to hear and praising us and telling us how much they like us or how talented they think we are, etc….and knowing that it is just said to make us like them. That it is not their true thoughts about us. So, then when we see them do the same thing with others, we will not be upset. We will know that they are not authentic and accept them as that. I personally do not have much time to invest in a social chameleon for none of it is real and I do not have the energy to invest a lot of time in something not real.

June 10, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,


  1. Trying to teach my daughter to recognize these.

    Comment by ansuyo | June 12, 2012 | Reply

  2. Really wonderful post … as I read it I was taken back to the days of being mesmorized by a cam site. I was so thrilled to watch on a live cam… and the thousands that were on a social site there. Over time I witnessed such as this and the “in crowd” the “out crowd” the very thing these experts talk about and you so beautifully crafted your words here about..
    .” They act so good and so sweet that they seem almost too good to be true” what a profound quote and truism that is… remember the old adage if if walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and swims like a duck? yep probably it is a duck…

    People do some remarkable things in what appears sweetness and light, friendship and ultimate self gain and sacrfice to others and change on a dime to be with and for and against and to talk… a sad lot indeed, choices folks make, skillful but ultimately the light of reality outshines the true colors of humanity and they become transparent to all who pay attention.

    thanks again for a great post backed up by some fantastic experts in the field.

    Comment by SHERRY E SHOWALTER | June 11, 2012 | Reply

  3. Awesome post Deb. I know a few chameleon type characters. Very insecure people indeed. So sad that it’s a “learned behaviour”……..even sadder to think that it was most likely their childhood environment that necessitated it (family home) 😦

    Comment by Cdn Stormlover | June 10, 2012 | Reply

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