How to present yourself? Balancing authenticity and positive spin

I’ve often described myself as someone who wears his “heart on his sleeve.” For a long time, I thought this was an honorable trait and a good thing.

My thinking was that, by being emotionally transparent, I therefore couldn’t be deceptive.

The challenge with this type of thinking, I’ve found is that while it’s well-intentioned — most shrewd operators in both business and in life, would quickly acknowledge how naive it is. And I’ve come to see and agree with their point, though I still find it difficult to do.

This occurred to me, when as part of a job interview, when things were going well and my would-be bosses started to try to sell me, I stopped to explain that I was looking a lot of other opportunities too.

Now while that was true, in hindsight, it’s too true. My goal is to get a job offer. And while I don’t want to be deceptive or misrepresent the facts, a better response would convey, that while I’m “in demand,” I’m most excited about this role. If I could do it again I’d say. “I’m having 2–3 other conversations that are pretty far along (creating scarcity and the perception that I’m in demand), but after talking to you I’m the most excited about this role as I think it’s a perfect place for me to hit the ground running by drawing upon my skills in X and Y.” In doing so, I’m reinforcing my interest and why I’d be great for the job.

No one wants to be a backup. The same is true in dating, sales, and job interviews. And we know that we’re all, to a certain extent, playing the same game. A first date isn’t a marriage contract. We don’t share all our flaws, nor doubts about the person or ourselves.

So how is this morally okay? I think it’s because we’re all implicitly agreeing to play the same game. Now some people certainly push this too far and take advantage. In some cases, I’ve seen sales people lie blatantly, and it turns out that can be very effective. So where you draw the line has to be a personal decision and judgement call; however, you have no moral obligation to present anything more than you’re being asked, and that puts you in the best light.

Because while you may feel this is a limited representation of you, also remember, that the other person is operating with a faulty decision making system too. They won’t, nor can the look at all the facts. Like all humans they take shortcuts. So if you present yourself too honestly, whereas all your competition aren’t, you’re playing losing hand and hurting both you and your potential romantic or business partner.