The first thing that comes to our mind when we talk about authenticity is being true to ourselves. Nonetheless, too many of us put the focus on the 'self' instead of the 'truth.' This often causes conflicts within the self to happen.
More and more people feel authentic communication is the way to go in an increasingly challenging working environment. To reduce the conflict within ourselves, we should understand what exactly does authentic communication mean.
When we look at the basic definition of 'authentic' and 'communication,' it means exchanging and sharing something based on facts.
Combining both of them indicates that sharing the information should be successful and is being done reliably, responsibly, and purposely based on facts.
Generally, it means you start with an intention that is in line with your values and identity, and you try to impart the information, ideas, and feelings effectively to achieve the objective.
If people feel offended and disrespectful for you to be yourself, it simply means that you are not communicating effectively even though you try to be authentic.
This is why we should seek the 'truth.' We often fail to communicate well when we focus on the 'self.'
The 'self' itself can mean selfish, self-centered, and stubborn when you go too extreme. It causes us to concentrate on how we feel and what we want at the moment without considering the fact that it is not as straightforward when we involve other people in the equation.
This is also the reason the more you want to show your authenticity, the more you feel like you are being insincere.
We also tend to neglect reality– we become blinded by the evidence and information we choose not to see. The more we try to share more about ourselves, the more we feel we are not understood.
It becomes apparent that you would struggle with authenticity when you trap yourself in the 'self' concept instead of 'truth.' If you want to improve that, you need to shift your mindset about it.
Fact 1: We can have multiple selves
Usually, all of us have different identities in various situations. We can have an identity when we are with our friends and a different one at work.
The problem occurs when we try to mold or use the same identity across all types of situations in the name of being authentic because we all play many roles in life.
For example, you can be a son or daughter of your parents, and you are also someone's spouse, a team's boss, and your friend's friend. We can even have a different identity on social media.
It becomes easier to practice authentic communication when you first realize that we all have multiple selves depending on the different roles and the 'truth' we are going after for different situations.
The values and beliefs that multiple selves hold are the same, but the difference is in your strategy and how you should communicate something to achieve your objective.
I do not think we should call that being inauthentic.
Fact 2: The multiple selves can evolve over time
As you learn new concepts and gain more experiences, your identity can evolve and even transform. This evolution can happen when you self-reflect and evaluate based on the latest evidence and information you gather.
To put it another way, both your objectives and values can change over time due to your experience and facts. You may also have the same objectives but different values or the same values but different objectives.
But does that mean you are not being authentic anymore? It is not.
All of us will adapt when we face new challenges. Unless we do not want to be on top of our game, this evolution is inevitable, and it can be risky towards our purpose when we are in denial of the facts to become isolated in our own set of rules and values.
More important is not the evolution itself because it is unavoidable as we grow, but learning to strike a balance and reach a consensus between your old values and the evolved identity while keeping the objective in mind.
This is why self-reflection is essential when you want to grow.
Fact 3: Authenticity does not mean letting people see through you
While showing your vulnerability is part of authenticity, it does not mean that you should be vulnerable and let everyone sees through you in every situation.
As we have different roles to play, it becomes natural and normal that we will show our authenticity in different ways with different boundaries so we do not compromise the 'truth' that we should keep in mind.
For example, when you try to share too much of your vulnerability with your subordinates to build the connection during an early stage at work, you could be diminishing the trust people have in you in your ability to do the job.
If we examine each portion of the 'truth', you would know what is the right thing to do:
Objective/Purpose: Build connection
Values: As a new manager, you should emphasize that you are reliable so your subordinates would think you are approachable whenever they have any problems.
Facts: You are still new to the job. It probably does not benefit you or serve your objective when you show your vulnerability without showcasing your knowledge, experience, and expertise over the team first. It is also culturally not fit as this is a high-performance team that is already used to focusing on the results.
After examining the 'truth' of this situation, you would know that you should achieve your objective by using another way.
While it is tempting to show your vulnerability straight away, you might decide that listening and understanding them through casual conversation is a better decision.
Depending on the situations and roles you play, you can show your authenticity in many different ways. It is unnecessary to let people see right through you for everything you do because that may not be the best way to achieve your objective.
So you might be wondering, how can we show our authenticity besides telling people what is inside us? You would be surprised that there are a lot of ways to practice authentic communication:
Authentic people would always speak based on facts and data because this demonstrates that they are reliable. When you brainstorm or have a difficult conversation with people, using concrete examples and being specific will help get them on the same page.
More importantly, when you are precise about what you are trying to convey, you prevent yourself from beating around the bush and being over-general.
Authentic people will always be open and honest without hesitating, making themselves trustworthy and dependable for people to know directly they say what they think.
And of course, this includes receiving negative feedback with an open heart to demonstrate that you are a reliable person that they can depend on you for positive change and good culture.
When you are unsure about something, ask for feedback or give your response only after thinking about it. Being responsible for whatever you say because you will not want to change your thoughts later can give the impression that you are a chameleon.
You also do not want people to find out that something you said is wrong or the impression that you did not give too much thought about it before you answer.
Besides, you would want to ensure that what you said has been fully understood so the confusion would not make people feel that you do not say what you mean.
You should be consistent in your objective and values so that it does not affect what you say and do. What you think should match with your words and actions, so people feel that you are dependable.
To do that, you have to keep learning about yourself through self-reflecting. Be conscious of your 'truth,' judgments, prejudices, and weaknesses that may prevent you from communicating consistently.
If you know you would respond negatively when a specific situation is triggered, manage or delay your reactions, so you remain consistent in your actions and words.
Be a listener and observer
We become good listeners and observers to discover the 'facts' that are part of the 'truth' that we discussed. Communication is the successful sharing of information.
To do that, you not only talk but also seek to understand to deliver a message effectively. When you train yourself to observe and listen, you can understand the underlying point of view through what is not said– the tones, expressions, word choice, and gestures.
This helps form an important piece of the facts to determine the best way to achieve your objective that is aligned with your values. This indirectly helps you to be consistent with your words and actions.
More importantly, you can tailor your communication to different people based on your observation to deliver your message successfully.
Understanding the cultural difference will be beneficial if you work with a multi-national team because that would profoundly affect how you perceive things and collect evidence for your 'facts.' Let's leave that for another discussion.
Here are some simple steps to follow to practice authentic communication:
Step 1: Identify what is the role (identity) you want to play.
Step 2: Based on the role you are playing, what is your purpose or objective on the outcome of the communication?
Step 3: What are the values and beliefs that you want to demonstrate?
Step 4: Find the facts. What are the relevant data, information, and story of the audience or someone you are targeting? Throughout this phase, make sure you observe, listen, research, and seek to understand without your own judgment and avoid focusing on the 'self' but the 'truth.'
Step 5: Decide the best action and communication style to use based on Step 1 to Step 4. Make sure you do it in a reliable, responsible, consistent way while learning through your observation and listening skills.
While many are focusing on Step 5 to practice authentic communication, they are missing out on the importance of the previous steps to avoid self-conflicts and struggles that many of us may face when we practice authenticity with different people.
One of the most common problems people face is that they feel superficial to practice authentic communication, thus preventing them from performing the best and communicating effectively.
You call this 'calculative.' I'd call this a realistic strategy that allows me to keep being myself while not being rigid, selfish, and naive.
However, as we discussed, we tend to have multiple selves that will evolve. Being authentic does not mean you should let everyone sees through you all the time.
It is crucial to remember that our values and principles are the same no matter which role we want to play; it is the method we handle things according to the 'facts' that make the difference.
Regardless of what we do and how we communicate, we have to bear in mind that we should and always have to talk reliably, responsibly, consistently, and listen and observe properly.
Whatever the situation, having good communication skills will always help make people understand what you mean and perceive you more positively.
Just as authentic communication, communication skills are not something that comes naturally. Continuous practice is always needed, and it is how determined you are in building your branding or climbing the corporate ladder that will differentiate you from your competitors and peers.
It is best to be perceived as a confident, trustworthy, and authentic person regardless of your work. This is something you can know within minutes from our proprietary A.I. model that evaluates your verbal and nonverbal communications together to predict how people may perceive you from the way you communicate– virtually or physically, based on data.
Sometimes, being true to yourself can mean being hated by everyone else– even after you examine the 'truth,' you might conclude that something unpopular has to be done.
This is always the case as you move higher into the management roles. In this case, what would you do? Would you be courageous enough to follow what you know and be confident enough the 'truth' is always right?
Let me know what your thoughts are in the comment section below!