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Why Do We Act Differently With Certain People?

As a writer of educational articles with a Master of Science degree, I share my philosophical studies of social sciences and humanities.

We behave differently with various people. Why is that?

We behave differently with various people. Why is that?

Social Acceptance and Rejection

Social rejection is the worst feeling. People need to feel a sense of belonging in social affairs and often adapt their behavior to feel others accept them.

Social acceptance is a way of fitting in and accepting or even tolerating differences in other people.1

However, in some cases, it stops people from truly being themselves since they change their behavior based on present circumstances or the people they confront in social activities.

In a positive way, it can lead to a sense of belonging. But there are adverse effects too, such as the need for conformity despite one’s desire.

It’s interesting to observe these concepts in social interactions, so let’s look into it further. I’ll discuss the sociological perspective of this and show you how to know when your friends are behaving true to their character.

What Does ‘True to Character’ Mean?

When one is not true to their character, you might detect ambiguity in their behavior and lack trust in them. You could be uncertain of their intent.

But why do some people tend to act differently under diverse circumstances?

Interestingly, we all do that. We change our behavior with various people because we relate to them in different ways. To some extent, we do it for protection. We feel the urge to get along, to conform with the majority.

One might think this behavior goes against being honest and reliable. But it’s more complicated. So let’s begin by analyzing our own behavior.

  • Do you ever change your behavior when you know other people are watching you?
  • Do you feel the need to act in a way that is acceptable to the people you associate with but not based on how you usually feel?

What about the other way around?

  • Are you aware that your observation of other people may not always give you an accurate impression of their true character?
  • Do you choose your friends for how they act and suddenly notice they are entirely different in other social settings?

That is known as the behavior uncertainty principle in human relationships.2

What Is the Behavior Uncertainty Principle?

It was initially developed as a law of physics by a German physicist, Werner Heisenberg, stating that when you attempt to measure the position of a particle, you lose a precise determination of its momentum or velocity.3

I learned about that in my college days when I studied physics. But I find it fascinating that we can apply its principle to human relationships too.

How Does the Uncertainty Principle Apply to Human Relationships?

When we begin to consider it, we realize how little we actually know about another person.

With any human relationship, we learn about another person through interactions and communication. For example, we share personal thoughts in the process of getting to know one another when we meet someone new.

Some people keep things to themselves. That’s understandable. We do the same thing before we become comfortable with someone who we recently had met. After all, we never know how they might respond to our thoughts and beliefs, such as personal opinions on life and politics.

I can take that concept a step further. Even when an intimate relationship develops and two people get to know one another, they might not learn the same facts someone else might know about them.

Why is that?

With respect to the questions I asked you earlier in this article, think about how you behave with various people. Are you acting the same with everyone you know? Think about that for a moment.

You might know people who fit into different lifestyle situations. For example, you might know someone who is highly educated and leads an expensive lifestyle, and you might know another person who has a remedial job.

They are both excellent people, and you appreciate their friendship. But do you engage in the same social affairs with each one?

They both have different interests due to their backgrounds, and since you enjoy both their company, you get involved with social functions that fit more closely with each of their styles.

That means you are a different person when you’re with either one of them. That is, you behave differently. You might even find it embarrassing to act a particular way with one as you do with the other.

Am I right? Did that ever happen in your social confrontations?

Dishonesty vs. Adaptability

Now that we have concluded we modify our behavior to suit different situations, we must consider our reality. To that point, are we being dishonest when we change our behavior to relate to various people or groups? Or are we merely being adaptable?

I think flexibility with behavior is a decent attitude. It’s one’s way of being considerate and allows one to get along with different types of people. So that’s a good thing.

In addition, it gives one a sense of belonging because they can fit in better with others.4

Social Pressure to Conform in Group Settings

A professor at Swarthmore College, Solomon Asch, conducted an experiment to study conformity among people to see how students felt the urge to go along with the crowd.

Having interviewed participants after the experiment, he found that many had gone along with the group because they were concerned about being ridiculed if they had different opinions.5

That type of behavior has a significant impact on society in general. The result is deceitful behavior. It’s challenging to know if one is acting real or not. They might merely be relating to the majority to get along without actually accepting the people who have different mindsets.

They do this despite having different opinions, and conforming can overwhelm their better judgment.6

When that deceit occurs, they could fail to enjoy the pleasure of socializing with people that might share alternative enlightening thoughts and experiences.

Flexibility With Relating to One Another

Some people are rigid with their beliefs, desires, needs, and interests. If you know someone like that, and you never catch them acting any differently, then you probably know their true character.

However, it’s nice to know flexible people. They can relate to a variety of individuals without experiencing conflict.

Those who are not rigid in their ways could have a more satisfying life with varied interests. Rather than focusing on stereotypes or racial prejudice, they can appreciate people for who they are.7

To Conclude

As you can see, it’s often uncertain what is behind one’s character. They are not lying or two-faced. They are merely guided by two conflicting forces.

They could be open to a variety of interests, but they might also fear rejection and therefore have a need to conform despite knowing in their heart that they are wrong.


  1. APA Dictionary of Psychology. (2020) "Social Acceptance"
  2. Steven Stosny, Ph.D. (April 14, 2021). “The Uncertainty Principle in Relationship Dynamics” — Psychology Today
  3. Andrew Zimmerman Jones. (January 31, 2018). “Understanding the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle” —
  4. Kendra Cherry. (March 05, 2021). "What Is the Sense of Belonging?" -
  5. Dr. Saul McLeod. (December 28, 2018). “Solomon Asch - Conformity Experiment” -
  6. Resource Article, (Retrieved October 22, 2021). “Why Do People Act Differently in Groups Than They Do Alone?” - Walden University
  7. Emily Aronson and Ushma Patel. (June 7, 2009). “Taking a deeper look at how people relate to each other” - Princeton University

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Glenn Stok