Do you find it easy to mimic other people?

Do you ever act friendly to people you dislike?

When you're uncertain how to act in a social situation, do you look to the behavior of others for cues?

Do you often seek the advice of your friends to choose movies, books, or music?

If you tended to answer yes to these questions, then you may be a "High Self-Monitor."

High Self-Monitors are skilled at modifying their behavior to the social demands of a situation. They look for cues, and act on them. When in Rome, they do as the Romans do, according to psychologist Mark Snyder, who created the Self-Monitoring Scale. Now answer these questions:

Is your behavior usually an expression of your true inner feelings, attitudes, and beliefs?

Do you find you can only argue for ideas that you already believe?

Do you dislike games like charades or improvisational acting?

Would you refuse to change your opinions, or the way you do things, in order to please someone else or win their favor?

If you tended to answer yes to these questions, then you may be a Low Self-Monitor.

Low Self-Monitors base their behavior on their own internal compass. They have a smaller repertoire of social behaviors and masks at their disposal. They’re less sensitive to situational cues, and less interested in role-playing, even when they know what the cues are.

It’s as if Low Self-Monitors and High Self-Monitors play to different audiences, Snyder has said: one inner, the other outer.

Being dualistic creatures, it’s hard to contemplate a scale like this without asking: “Which is better?”

But there’s no obvious answer to this question. Each way of being has its pros and cons.

Are Low Self-Monitors rigid and socially awkward -- or do they march admirably to the beat of their own drummers? Are High Self-Monitors conformist and deceptive -- or is their willingness to accommodate to situational norms an act of generosity and modesty? HSMs have been found to be better liars than LSMs – but also better actors, an art form that requires great empathy.

You may also be wondering how self-monitoring relates to introversion. Extroverts are more likely than introverts to be HSMs, but plenty of introverts are HSMs too. And the higher a self-monitor you are, the better you probably are at acting situationally extroverted, according to this study by psychologist Richard Lippa.

Me, I’m right in the middle. I'm a horrible mimic, dislike charades, and find it hard to argue a point unless I believe it 150%, but in social situations I try to do more or less what's expected.

How about you? Which way do you lean?

(I have more questions from the Self-Monitoring Scale in my book, btw.)

If you like this blog, you might like to pre-order my forthcoming book, QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

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About the Author

Susan Cain

Susan Cain is the author of QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and the co-founder of Quiet Revolution, a startup that aims to help businesses manage their introverted employees.

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