We all play certain roles in our lives. We figure out what our parts are and what the requirements are for playing those roles successfully. I think this happens in almost every aspect of our lives, but especially in our professional lives, because those of us for whom our work is important, spend more of our waking hours working than doing anything else.
For example, the person deeply afraid of public speaking can learn to become good at it, with enough focused effort. The shy person can learn to put on a different persona in order to be effective in the spotlight and can become better and better at it. And different circumstances and different audiences can require assuming different roles with different "rules of interaction." We play a certain role with customers, yet another with employees, yet another with employers, etc. Even in our personal lives, there might be certain kinds of relationships in which the specific rules of interaction are clear in our minds - especially in those relationships where compartmentalization is easy, maybe even preferred. And of course, it helps when the respective roles and appropriate rules of interaction are equally understood and accepted by everyone involved - then there's less room for misunderstanding and confusion and becomes almost like reading from the same clearly defined script.
But then there are some circumstances and interactions that involve emotional vulnerability. This is a different beast altogether. Because in that context, there is no "role" to assume. There are no clearly defined "rules of interaction" to follow when we are emotionally naked in front of another person. Some of us are simply horrible at this, or we have been too hurt to trust, so we revert to what we are accustomed to and we try to impose compartmentalization anyway, or we try to apply a certain set of rules of interaction even though it isn't appropriate in that context, or is a set of rules that the other person doesn't understand or doesn't want to accept.
I think this explains how some people can be highly inconsistent across the different aspects of their lives - how someone who might be good at being a friend, might be horrible at being a romantic partner. Or how some of us who are rockstars professionally, can be complete disasters when it comes to our personal lives. Or how someone who is a great parent, might be a less than ideal spouse, etc. We all make choices about which roles we are willing to work hard at until we succeed at playing them. The context is critically important. So it's actually impossible to say that we truly know another person, especially if we've only ever seen him/her in certain contexts, if we've only ever seen him/her playing certain roles. Change the context, and you might be very surprised by that person you once thought you knew so well.
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6 months ago