An executive of a large broadcasting company once told me that successful people in business have to have a little bit of the chameleon in them. Without pausing, he said I had some chameleon in me.
On the other hand, another broadcast executive told me that I was an amicable provocateur.
I can’t both be chameleon and provocateur. These are opposing qualities.
For example, the word chameleon refers to the lizard who changes colors to blend into the leaf or rock it happens to be sitting on at the time. When used to describe a person, it means they change according to the group they’re in. It sometimes can be meant as a negative critique on the person’s character.
The word provocateur describes a person who likes to mix things up in conversation. They will consciously take the opposite side of a topic being discussed, even though they most likely don’t believe in the position they have taken.
Of all things, a person who is a chameleon is definitely not a provocateur. Neither is a provocateur a chameleon.
So there is a contradiction in the way these two executives have described me. Yet, I am both chameleon and provocateur.
I’m chameleon like, because, throughout my life, I have tended to blend in with the group I happened to be with at the time. This has been invaluable in my profession of thirty years. I’m a management consultant. I meet many different kinds of people in business, especially among the entrepreneurial class. I try to blend in, in order to accomplish the work I have been contracted to do. Far from being a personality flaw, it is a necessity if you are going to be able to understand the people you are dealing with.
However, in my social life, it’s a different matter. There are two things I dislike: boring conversation and one way thinking. On the first account, I have always tried to liven up conversation. I believe conversation should be fun and stimulating. If not, I’m apt to go do something else. On the second, I am easily annoyed when all conservatives (or liberals) do is reinforce one another’s opinions in conversation. I will consciously interject an opposing point of view in order to try and establish balance. But, I try to do it amicably, unless people argue without thinking there is the remotest possibility that there are legitimate alternative views. In such instances, I can become very direct and very frank.
So, what is the moral of this little anecdote? One, a person can be more than one thing, even when one personality trait differs from another. In such cases, it suggests texture and dimension to that person’s personality. And two, conversation should be lively, fun, and diverse; if not, we tend to live dull and overly predictable lives.