I am a 32-year-old African American male IT contractor. A longtime friend of mine called me a “turncoat” after he saw me socializing with my clients. Since his pronouncement, I have been getting the cold shoulder from a couple of others friends who have also questioned whether “I am losing my identity.” I do not believe I did anything wrong.
First of all, let me share your friend’s observation of you changing your language, body language or tone, based on the culture or environment you are in is NORMAL. In his new book, The Work, by Wes Moore, he describes the term for the behavior your friend observed as code-switching. This is a survival tactic that minorities often use when they find themselves immersed in a majority culture other than their own.
Let’s face it, everyone tries to fit in. Our ability to make adjustments to our personalities is a gift of being human. Moore says code-switching is something most people do unconsciously. Your friend pointing it out is making you feel insecure and wondering if you are being true to your race. Everyone makes subtle and/or obvious changes when they are interacting socially with others. Being able to adapt to different people and environments is a highly useful tool in your being hired by a variety of companies. Instead of being annoyed or feeling insecure about what your friend observed in you, acknowledge that this is a skill or tool that you use to be productive in building your business.
Your friend sounds very judgmental and it leads me to question whether minorities are too hard on each other? While he does have the right to his opinion, you should not have to justify your enjoyment of spending time with your clients. Many minorities have learned that in order to be successful it is necessary to be a global citizen and to learn to adapt to a variety of cultures and races. The fact that your friend has pointed this out and has shared his opinion with others in your circle makes me feel that his criticism is a very pointed way of putting you down.
In the midst of all the racial challenges we are facing, my concern is that minorities are often too quick to criticize each other. There’s no harm in our loyal friends bringing to our attention when they see us do something that does not fit the norm, but to do it in a manner where it has also involved other people leads me to sense that his behavior is more than a little mean-spirited.
I would not apologize for your behavior to your friend. Share with him the meaning behind code-switching and leave it to him to determine if he wants to spend time with you. And if he insists on bringing it up again, do yourself a favor and simply walk away.
Intuitive Life Strategist Sheree Franklin helps people to find the courage to release their life challenges in order to live in alignment with their true self.
She is the author of Intuition: The Hidden Asset Everyone Should Learn to Use. To learn more about Franklin’s book, go here.
Sheree Franklin is a practitioner at Holistic Health Practice at One East Superior, in Chicago. You can email your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her practice includes one-to-one coaching as well as speaking to organizations. For more information go to www.shereefranklin.com or call 312-664-8376.