It helps to be a bit of a social and verbal chameleon. Matching your language, demeanor, and expression to the expectations of your audience is generally a good thing.
Adapting yourself to your audience is not about abandoning your personal style or changing your message to suit someone else’s expectations. It’s about increasing your personal accessibility. Even if you are preparing for a speech or presentation that’s intended to stir the proverbial pot, you can still increase your appeal by ensuring that your vocabulary, expressions, and even your behavior is consistent with the social norms of the audience.
We adapt to different codes of language and behavior constantly in our daily lives. Those who don’t usually find it difficult to get along with all but a small minority of people. Those who can generally find it easier to meet new people and navigate difficult social situations. The key is adapting yourself while maintaining authenticity.
So how can you stay authentic while still being a bit of a social chameleon? It has less to do with modifying the opinions you express and more to do with modifying the way you express them. Try to match your words and speaking style to the words and style of your audience. Watch for common expressions or slang that you can pick up and deliver back at them. Avoid colloquialisms that might be unfamiliar to the people who you are addressing. If the audience expects very formal language, dress things up; if they are more casual, tone the formality down a notch.
To get really, really good at being a social chameleon, expose yourself to the current pop culture of a wide variety of groups. Listen to other varieties of music, read a wide range of online and print material, learn about different cultures. The goal isn’t to become an expert on three hundred different social groups; the point is to prime your brain to notice social customs quickly and easily. This will help you adapt at the drop of a pin.
Remember: we generally like people who are like ourselves. How can you be more like the person or people you are speaking with?