One of the most insidious and (self) destructive behaviors impacting life – at work, at home, at play and in relationship – is collusion, a tacit and unspoken agreement where two or more folks choose to overlook their honesty and authenticity in order to support some joint fake, phony or duplicitous sense of themselves.
We most often collude with one another in order to feel psycho/emotionally safe and secure. The price of collusion is that the parties engage in deceitful, self-destructive and self-sabotaging behaviors in order to gain some form of acceptance, approval, recognition, and security. Dangerous territory.
Basically, collusion is saying (silently and/or covertly): “I’m going to look the other way so you can behave the way you want or need to, and I’ll make believe our relationship is honest and genuine (even though I know our collusive behaviors are inappropriate and self-destructive.) AND, I expect you to do the same for me.”
Collusion is fraud – plain and simple – living my own lie while supporting you to live your lie, and vice-versa. That is, no one “shows up” in integrity or with authenticity, and they know it! Repeat. They know it! On a deeper level, collusion obscures the “real-ness” of each person and phonies up the so-called honesty with which they relate to one another. It’s tap dancing around one another’s personal elephants in the room.
Flavors of collusion
There are various flavors of collusion. Generally, collusion can appear as:
- Giving up one’s honesty and authenticity in order to get something in return.
- “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”-type motives for interacting.
- Going along to get along: engaging in denial or “turning a blind eye” to others’ questionable activities with the expectation they will do the same for you at some point.
- One hand washing the other: building up a store of tacit, mutual “IOUs.”
People collude when they pledge loyalty to an unscrupulous or incompetent leader, manager, colleague, friend, neighbor, spouse, partner or relative – when they turn a blind eye to the inappropriate behaviors of others in an effort to feel safe with one another, “making believe” all is well. Living an illusion all is well.
People collude in order to feel appreciated and “seen” – the foundation of many dysfunctional and co-dependent relationships. Our denials notwithstanding.
People collude when they share information with a select few and create a clique – in order to feel special, or be accepted as part of the “in” group. They feel acknowledged at being “chosen.”
People collude when they gang up on another through bullying, sarcasm, or gossiping – in order to experience a (false) sense of connection and camaraderie with their co-conspirators.
Folks collude when they withhold honest and forthright comments about inappropriate behavior because they fear alienating another or being ostracized in some way. Resisting the truth and “making believe” another’s behavior is acceptable, colluders play the game of mutual acceptance while perpetuating a phony relationship based on false respect.
Everyone – everyone – experiences some sense of deficiency. It’s the human condition. Just about everyone harbors some real or perceived notion they are not “good enough” or are lacking, “bad” or deficient in some way. So, facing our innate sense of deficiency, we have two choices:
- We can choose to face our sense of insecurity honestly, ignoring our underlying temptation to collude. Taking this approach requires conscious steps to act authentically and honestly, and sidestep any urge to be a fake and a phony. It means resisting the temptation to “go along to get along” with others who aren’t taking a line of integrity, authenticity and sincerity.
- We can “play games” with others and ignore, deny, or resist the truth, ignoring “the elephants in the room.” Here, we put on blinders, censor our words, refuse to hear what needs to be heard, say what needs to be said, alter our actions to convenience, and tell whatever lies are necessary – always hoping that our state of denial will keep the emotional peace (my own and others’) though at the price of perpetuating an insincere, co-dependent, and dysfunctional relationship.
Collusion is lying to protect our own and another’s fragile ego at the expense of speaking the truth and acting with integrity and self-responsibility. Collusion is a progressive drug that leads one to engage in deeper and deeper levels of lying, deceit and fakery.
Colluders need to lie and deceive themselves and others more and more to sustain their false sense of physical, emotional and/or psychological safety. As a result, colluders live in a constant state of vigilance, preoccupied with whether they will be “found out” and have their false facade penetrated. Colluders are consistently preoccupied worrying whether their co-colluder(s) will be “outed” leaving them to face the unpleasantness, even terror, of being “found out” themselves one day.
Colluding is exhausting – demanding an inordinate amount of physical, emotional, and psychic energy. It demands continually shoring up fake and phony relationships that have no real foundation except that of mutual convenience. Like all lying, collision demands constantly remembering which particular lies you are currently telling – with the additional burden of recalling the other person’s lies as well. It is corrosive to head, heart, and soul.
Honesty, happiness, and true friendship most often appear as the top responses to the question, “What’s really important to you in relationship?” You can’t collude and expect to find real, meaningful, sincere and authentic connection with another – at work, at home (yes, even at home; sometimes, especially at home), or at play. Acting as if you can, demands collusion.
The simplest approach to ridding oneself of the need to collude is twofold:
- To seek understanding of the reasons (and excuses) why you refuse to tell yourself and others the truth.
- To set your intention on complete honesty, even if it would be easier to take the low road of lying and deception.
The truth will set you free: mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and psychologically. Telling the truth allows you to show up authentically and with integrity in an honest, sincere, and self-responsible way. Telling the truth is the only real way to experience a life of real happiness and self-fulfillment, and to experience deep and true relationships with others – to dance through life in lightness and freedom, rather than continually tap dancing around all those looming, invisible elephants.
Some questions for self-reflection:
- If you have a tendency to collude, what are some of ways you do it?
- Do others collude with you by telling you only what they think you want/need to hear? Why do they do this? Is it for some benefit or for fear of how you might react?
- Do you find yourself lying and being phony to maintain specific relationships? Why? How so?
- What keeps you from telling the truth? What are you afraid of? What are you trying to hide?
- How do you feel when you’re in a situation where you know you’re colluding (i.e. giving to get, going along to get along, etc.)?
- What’s “right” about colluding? What does colluding get you? Is there another way to get that result without colluding?
- Did you experience forms of collusion as you were growing up? How so?
I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful. Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.
What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that thing is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”
I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.
I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com
You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.