Hypocritical people have a public and a private face. They use different masks depending on the situation. They pretend to be what they are not in order to receive social approval.
Relationships with a fake person are often complicated because we are never sure what they really think or feel. And he probably has no qualms about manipulating us to achieve his goals.
Hypocritical person: definition
Hypocrisy is the inconsistency between what is said and what is done, or between what is thought and felt and what is externalized. It is a way to hide or repress true desires, thoughts and emotions to adapt to the expectations of the environment.
In fact, the word hypocrisy derives from the Greek hupokrisis which means “stage”. In that context, a hypocrite, or hupokrités, was simply an actor, someone pretending to be someone else on stage.
But perhaps the best definition of hypocrisy comes from the American politician Adlai E. Stevenson, who said, "A hypocrite is the kind of person who would tear down a redwood, build a stage and then make a nature conservation talk."
It is true that, as social beings, we all experience a conflict between our interests and those of others. It is not always possible to match our desires with those of others. To resolve this conflict without giving up our ego and without creating excessive social friction, we develop various more or less assertive strategies that allow us to combine public and private interests.
But there are people who have not developed these strategies, but prefer to hide what they think or feel. They are not dependent or submissive people, but they use hypocrisy to achieve their goals, even if in the end it is a maladaptive strategy that creates a profound dissonance between behavior and emotions, beliefs and ideas.
How to unmask a fake person? The 5 behaviors of hypocritical people
- They are always ready to punish someone. Their "high" moral standards lead them to point the accusing finger at someone and it is not unusual for them to publicly humiliate others. It is a compensation strategy through which they try to focus attention on the alleged mistakes, weaknesses or shortcomings of the other so that the people around them do not realize their discrepancies and / or hypocrisy.
- They have an aura of moral superiority. Self-righteous people are usually somewhere between narcissism and intellectual superiority. They are often victims of the Dunning-Kruger effect, so their arrogance can make us feel inferior and immature when relating to them.
- The rules never apply to them. There are rules and regulations, but they only apply to others. Hypocrites believe that because they have an innate sense of law and morals, they are above the law and are not obligated to obey it.
- They are never to blame, they always have an excuse at hand. Self-righteous people do not recognize their discrepancies and mistakes, even if they are very obvious. These people do not apologize or admit their responsibility, but continually resort to excuses. For them, circumstances are always a mitigating factor.
- Do what I say, not what I do. This could be the maxim of the hypocrites. Their actions almost never coincide with their words or their attitude with their real values. This is because their main motivation is to look good in front of others and get the most benefit.
The 3 strategies that hypocritical and false people use
- Moral duplicity. Self-righteous people who continually cite irreproachable reasons, but who don't actually act according to them. For example, a person may continually talk about the importance of helping others, but when faced with someone who needs help, he looks the other way. Or he praises values like fidelity and the importance of telling the truth, but then is unfaithful to the partner.
- Double moral standards. False and negligent people when it comes to judging themselves, but who apply a strict moral standard to others. For example, they get angry if a driver does not stop in front of a pedestrian crossing, but when they are behind the wheel they do the same, they resort to excuses to explain why they did not stop. They see the speck in the eye of others but not the beam in theirs.
- Moral weakness. People in conflict with their attitudes due to cognitive dissonance. For example, a person may talk about the importance of going to vote, but they don't participate on election day. In this case, self-control is lacking, the person really believes what he says, but at the time of putting it into practice he does not have the necessary willpower, even if he does not dare to acknowledge it publicly and continues to give moral lessons.
Why are people so hypocritical?
Chances are you will meet more than one hypocrite in your environment. And it is also likely that you wonder how it is possible that you do not notice the inconsistency between his words and his actions.
The explanation for this phenomenon comes from psychologist Patricia Linville, who worked at Yale University and coined the term "self-complexity" in the mid-80s. His hypothesis is that the less complex the cognitive representation of the ego, the more extreme the fluctuations in the person's mood and attitudes will be.
In other words, some people tend to perceive themselves from a very limited perspective, for example, they define themselves through the roles they play, so they think they are a "sacrificing mother" or a "successful manager". The problem is that having such a limited definition of ourselves makes us psychologically more unstable and prevents us from facing the contradictions inherent in the complexity of the personality and the environment.
To better understand this phenomenon we can take a look at an experiment conducted at the University of Miami. These psychologists asked college students to rate the importance of study skills. Subsequently, they asked them to remember all the times they had neglected the study, in order to unmask the possible hypocrisy behind the first answers.
Interestingly, then, students who had less self-complexity were more likely to change their early opinions; that is, they rectified indicating that, after all, the study was not that important.
This may explain why some people say one thing and do another. Their comments come from a representation of the self that is completely separate from the self acting in other circumstances. In practice, self-righteous people just try to keep the identity they have built immune by separating their words from their actions.
In the case of politicians, for example, it is normal for them to hold a discourse connected to their "political ego" while doing something diametrically opposite in their "business ego" or "family". In this way they are able to save their different 'I's, because they are not able to integrate them.
These studies indicate that many people are self-righteous without realizing it. In fact, often when we confront them with their contradictions they do not recognize them and hide behind excuses.
Of course, not all people live in this state of "self-righteous ignorance". There are also those who learn to exploit hypocrisy, especially when they realize that following certain ideas is neither practical nor beneficial. These people have no problem proclaiming something and doing exactly the opposite if they think it is more convenient. But they will not openly acknowledge their hypocrisy because it is too painful and would be a severe blow to their "me", so they will argue that they were moved by circumstances.
Why do self-righteous people bother us so much?
The answer, or at least part of it, comes from a study conducted at Yale University. These psychologists have found that what annoys us most about self-righteous people is not the inconsistency between their words and their actions, but that their moral claims are false and claim to be more virtuous than they are.
Basically, we don't like hypocrites because they disappoint us. In fact, it has been shown that we tend to believe and prefer moral claims or statements that involve a degree of generalization to explain behaviors. For example, if a person abandons a project, we prefer the explanation "it makes no sense to waste more energy" rather than "I don't want to waste more energy". Therefore, when we discover the truth, we feel more disappointed and deceived.
This means that, in a certain way, we too contribute to the hypocrisy that persists in society. In fact, in some situations it may be that we too have behaved in a hypocritical way to try to give a better image of ourselves.
How to deal with self-righteous people?
The best way to combat hypocrisy is to be authentic and understand that many contradictions coexist within each of us. We can all behave hypocritically in some situations, but there is an important line between the level of social and tolerable hypocrisy and the intolerable hypocrisy that aims to give moral lessons. We do not need to meet the expectations of others nor do we need to become preachers of morality. We just have to live and let live.
- Listen to it. Although the first reaction to a hypocrite's criticism is to get defensive, the smartest thing is to calm down and listen. Perhaps his words come from genuine concern for us. That is why we must learn to separate the wheat from the chaff and, if your idea is valuable, we can accept it. If it isn't, we always have the option to ignore it.
- Don't attack it. Directly accusing a hypocritical person of not practicing what he preaches is useless as it will generate a defensive reaction. Most likely, the person will respond by counterattacking, falling into a meaningless argument to find out who is the less self-righteous of the two. Therefore, as much as his words annoy you, do not lose patience and do not attack him. Remember that whoever makes you angry controls you.
- Don't feel guilty. The hypocrite is likely to make you feel guilty for not being capable enough. If you know the reasons for your behavior, it's important that you keep perspective and don't feel guilty. Remember that, after all, only what you give too much importance to can hurt you.
- Clarify the conversation. Often the hypocrites go off the rails, make a general and vague speech in which everyone is guilty and sinful, but do not point the accusing finger at anyone in particular. If you think he is referring to you in his speech, ask him if this is the case. Often asking for clarification of his words is enough to put an end to his attitude.
- Set your limits. If the hypocrite is crossing the red lines, don't hesitate to tell him clearly. You can let him know that you don't accept moral talk or undeserved reproaches that make you feel bad. Speak calmly and firmly. If the self-righteous person realizes that his speech does not affect you, sooner or later he will leave you alone.