#3 Stop Being Untrustworthy

 

#3 Stop Being Untrustworthy.

What goes around, comes around. Rinse. Repeat.

Maybe I should have ended with this one. Because it's really the trickiest of them all. On the deepest level it starts with being trustworthy to yourself, which means valuing something called integrity. It means the ends & the means matter equally to you. It means you care about being good to your word & that you're very, very careful about what you sacrifice on the altar of your ambition. You don't ditch one date at the last minute for a better one. You do what you say you're going to do. Opportunities matter to you, but not more than people.

 
 
"Judas, Kristen Stewart, Bernie Madoff, Charlie Tuna – there are so many great case studies of betrayal, & yet I find it hard to put words to the dreadful thrill &/or agonizing stab in one’s bellypit that signals to a body: this is treachery. I do think that the best traitors must be experts when it comes to self-deceit. They learn the art at home. Chloroforming whatever internal voices suggest: better not do this, you are reneging on a deal, you are breaking a promise, you are crossing over to a shadowy frontier . . . And I think that betrayal can often be a profound surprise to the traitor herself.
KAREN RUSSELL, novelist

Sometimes it's not under the "untrustworthy" column, but under "thoughtless." Or "unprofessional." Or even "neurotic" or "self-serving." But no matter what you call it, nothing will come back to bite you in the ass harder than this one. & here's the thing: you won't even know it's happening. Things will just stop going your way. Auditions, meetings, invites, attention ... dry up. & You're not sure why, but something's wrong.

Maybe you weren't even aware that what you did wasn't kosher. If you figure out your mistake early on & make honest amends, you might even get by, because people actually want to forgive & forget. But when you gaff too often in the area of trust, it's like a runaway train, it's way out ahead of you & you can't ever catch up. 

 

What do I mean by gaffs? Something about you makes people feel that you're suspect. You only partly answer a question. Or you hesitate a moment too long before answering. You say one thing & do another. You make excuses when you make a mistake, rather than owning it. Or you blame others to justify your bad. You've got those untrustworthy "tells": your eyes dart around the room at a party instead of focusing on who is talking to you. You spin conversations to your most recent accomplishments/compliments in order to raise your stock with whoever is listening. You can't remember names & faces of people you've pegged as being of no use to your career. You mix up dating & job-seeking. & even if you don't sleep with them, you string them along, letting them think you might. You tell secrets, you keep secrets, you compartmentalize. You use emotion & vulnerability to manipulate people. You forget you told the lie & post the truth on Instagram. 

 
 

"Real" & "you" aren't friends. You're always the one a little too overdressed with a little too much make-up on. You seem to be acting all the time rather than just eyes on the job. Your very manner, your lack of "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" puts people on guard around you. 

These things begin to define you & then it's no longer about being untrustworthy. Your machinations here, there, & everywhere, eventually morph into trust-betrayal. Now don't worry, you don't matter all that much. The people whose trust you betrayed will not be out to get you. Most of the time they won't even think about you. But when the moment comes, when someone asks about you, when they ask your agent, your ex, your former boss, your acting teacher, your director, etc., these people will retaliate with the searing truth: their honest assessment of you. Not about your talent (usually). If people trust you & like you as a person, they will give even peanut-sized talent the benefit of the doubt. But when betrayal is involved, your talent can be Pacino-sized & they will warn people off you, into eternity. Forgive, maybe. Forget, no.

The one that hurts your career most is the agent / manager betrayal. Even if you are totally justified in moving on, if you don't do it right, it will bite you back. So, make up your mind that you will never, ever leave anyone abruptly, no matter what. Not if the agent higher up on the food chain demands it. Not if your current agent has not returned your calls in weeks. Excepting of course truly egregious events like abuse, lying, illegalities -- you know the drill. Other than that, nyet, no, nada. In this situation it's never WHAT you do but HOW you do it. You don't get to diss your employees to other people. You don't get to treat them with a lack of respect. Or fire them on the spot, without a warning. ("Employee" ?? -- what is she talking about? HUH?) Yes, I MEAN YOUR EMPLOYEE. i.e. YOUR AGENT. YOUR MANAGER. You are the boss, they are your employeeYou must have a cogent & thoughtful process for ending professional relationships that no longer serve you. A way of leaving that honors the time you spent together, what you achieved, & even what you didn't achieve. 

 

Other equally noxious betrayals occur when you appropriate what isn't yours. Usually it happens when you gain unearned proximity to those who seem to be living your dream. (Rule of thumb: if someone is paying you to be in the room & it's not an acting job, you haven't earned full access.) It shouldn't have to be said, but no, don't sleep with the movie star when you're the nanny. You know?

Or, if you're lucky enough to get one of those cushy personal assistant jobs, don't assume your boss's celebrity friends are also your friends. If your boss has enhanced your access to a celeb through your relationship, private access is OFF LIMITS. Even -- especially -- when that celeb tries to poach you. The opportunity would not be in your reach without the access provided by your employer. So don't take something that doesn't belong to you.

Should you have to choose sides, say, between a divorcing couple, get a grip. It's NOT about which scenario plays out best for you. If you don't have an innate knack for loyalty, ask yourself: Who was responsible for hiring me? Who was the most fair to me? Who was the most wronged in the altercation? Yes, you might find yourself, O-powerless-little-actress, now in a position of power. Let's say the husband hired you. You've worked as his assistant for two years. You know his secrets, both business & personal. You know his passwords. You know the pain, spoken or unspoken, that he's going through in this break-up. You know his wife wronged him. & now, whoo-hoo! the wife wants to whisk you away to Paris with her & pay you 3 times more than he did to work for her. (& why do you think she wants to do this? THINK about it for a moment, dear dumb-head!) You really see this as an "opportunity" you're entitled to? That you should grab? Then you are not only disloyal, you're bloody stupid.

Then there's a sort of negligent betrayal. Maybe you don't know this (yet), but it's really a special occasion when someone helps you out, with no agenda. Helps you get an audition or an agent, helps you be a better actor, casts you when you are a risk, etc. Once someone actually sticks their neck out for you ⎼ with absolutely no ulterior motive ⎼ this is gold. Betray this person at your peril. Negligent betrayal means forgetting to thank, to show appreciation, to acknowledge the gift. & that is not only stupid, it's boring.

“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism & demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me & to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty & cheap praise. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty & betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.” 
MERYL STREEP 
 
 

Think about it this way: RESULTS don't matter more than RELATIONSHIPS. Nor do relationships matter more than results. You wouldn't stay in a loveless, boring relationship any more than you should stay with an agent who doesn't get you, but somehow the sheer sense of powerlessness engendered by the brutality of show biz itself tends to give rise to outrageous behavior. The actor's drive to get something, get somewhere, somehow, any way she can, supersedes all else. An opportunity beckons, & you feel like you need the instant gratification so badly, you cease to care about the long term cost.

 

The golden rule, you can't go wrong with this:

BALANCE results & relationships. Let that be your mantra. Neither one at the expense of the other. Both are vital to your future success as an actor, & a person with a happy life.

Unfortunately, the stuff I'm talking about here is something you must adopt organically rather than strategically. It doesn't work unless it's hard-wired in your heart & gut as part of what makes you, you.

Still, if your false self has led you down the wrong path, you might be tempted to think, so what? As far as you're concerned, the "results" are what a "winner" goes for, & so fine, you'll choose your relationships based on that criteria. Here's the problem: you don't always choose correctly. People you think won't be useful to you turn out to be, later on. Those people you've betrayed talk to the ones who could (but now won't) be useful to you in the future. & people you've invested time & energy in & targeted as "useful to my career" turn out to be sleeze-bags or losers. So even if your personal values aren't sturdy enough to calibrate your behavior, I hope for your sake that, reading this, your instincts for self-preservation, at least, will at least kick in.

 
 

Oops. You are reading this, aren't you! & ... yeah & you've already done it. You know you have.

Good news: it's never, ever too late to fix. Almost always, if you're sincere, you can make amends. Even now. But don't kid yourself. Probably more people than you think no longer consider you trustworthy. They see through you now. So, before making amends to anyone else, first consider that it might be time for a major soul-search / self-correct, within. 

Your talent, in the end, is the measure of who you are as a person. In the old days, before the rise of different kind of consciousness, maybe people could get away with more bad behavior: news didn't spread as fast. Not any more. & that's a good thing.

THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE
SANDY: ...it's only possible to betray where loyalty is due"

loyalty & betrayal [more]

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To coincide with the release of Granta issue 122: Betrayal,
the magazine asked contributors from the issue to offer up their
definitions of the word and its implications.
Here's the whole beautiful issue:
GRANTA WINTER 2013 / BETRAYAL
fiction, essays, podcasts, interviews & more...
 


FOX: WHEN FRIENDS TURN FERAL
by Margaret Wild & Ron Brooks

Margaret Wild’s children’s book does not sugar-coat. The remarkable illustrations of Ron Brooks seamlessly accompany Wild’s rather menacing tale of the friendship between “Dog” & “Magpie”, & the intrusive “Fox” who destroys their relationship. The text itself is integrated amongst Brooks’ illustrations, making the read interactive as you twist & turn the book while the story progresses.