We recently had a fascinating discussion about authenticity with several delegates during an internal communication skills course. We had identified in the beginning that the majority of the participants attending the two-day programme had received a 360-degree feedback suggesting that they may benefit from tools and techniques to develop their communication skills. Anyone in the group felt that, while they certainly were keen to improve their skills being authentic while communicating at the job was the main thing. Then they added that they’d feel inauthentic if they certainly were to consciously use their body language in ways that might influence someone. This prompted us to pause and ask the group if they’d be thinking about us facilitating an exploration into the meaning of the word authenticity. They unanimously agreed and so we kicked off by asking the next question:
“Do you consider there is a difference between how you feel, think and behave if you are at home with your loved ones, out with friends and at assist colleagues?”
While everyone in this kind of group agreed there clearly was indeed a difference, most felt which they behaved authentically while communicating at work. This then prompted the question, which of the feelings and behaviours were most authentic to anyone; all of them perhaps? This is a little trickier because it was clear from some of the feedback the delegates in the area had received from a recent 360 that their authentic behavior wasn’t necessarily making the required impact. The objective for the rest of the session then shifted towards how we might identify that will be our authentic self and how to then consciously make use of a communication skills technique without losing authenticity. What happened next?
Think, can of worms and a tin opener!
We started by looking at how we might are more conscious of exactly how we utilize the 4 dimensions (body, heart, mind and intention) expressing ourselves. Once we are clear concerning this we could start to recognize that there are in fact many selves behind what may seem like one personality. At the very least four generally in most cases.
Let’s start with what we might believe is our authentic physical self. It is a well known fact that individuals inherit 50% of our genes from our Mothers and one other 50% from our fathers and so the self we call our body is entirely inherited. We’re basically physical reproductions of our parents. The biggest thing to understand about this is that the genes we’ve inherited contain memories. You could have heard about muscle memory in sport, well exactly the same applies to the genetic memory inherent in the synthesis of the body in vitro. All of the memories that inform the process leading to the form, size and quality of our physical organs is within the genes we inherit and are the result of our ancestors’ social and environmental experiences and behaviours. Recent studies in epigenetics have revealed so just how important genetic inheritance can be in terms of our health and well-being and that of our children. So, what does it mean to be authentically ourselves physically when we’ve inherited someone else’s parts of the body?
Now let’s explore how we might become a slightly different person once we become emotional. People will often claim that after a really emotional episode – this might have involved either feeling extremely happy or ecstatic to feeling sad or angry – they felt like they’d been hijacked by another personality. That is essentially because our emotions are a mix of inherited dispositions, learned behaviours and also our own unique responses to living conditions and experiences we’ve been born into. Each important stage of life is marked by certain emotional benchmarks, infancy to childhood and puberty to adulthood. Each one of these stages will have featured both positive and negative experiences that lay out some fairly stubborn and habitual, emotional responses that can be quite hard to break. So, are we always authentically being ourselves emotionally? That will be your true and authentic emotional self?
The intellectual dimension can also be susceptible to the vagaries of our genetic inheritance. Although this isn’t necessarily fixed for life help with living an authentic life. Research into brain plasticity has revealed which our thinking style can be altered and with practice and regular brain workouts we could increase our intellectual capacity. However, our genes with the quality of our education will influence the development of a personality that is based on our own familiarity with the world. The challenge with this personality is that it will often be a variety of learned traditions and rules plus our own interpretation of the data we’ve been required to understand and accept. It is probably safe to assume that a lot of individuals are behaving authentically when communicating their knowledge about the world. In the end, it is what they believe to be true.
Which neatly brings us to the fourth dimension of self-expression. The Intentional self. Here is the personality that forms around our deepest values and beliefs about life, the universe and everything. For instance, while at the job you may professionally execute most of the tasks required of one’s job role but your ‘intention’ is to have during the day avoiding your boss or certain colleagues and get out of the building as quickly as possible. In this instance you may well be ‘doing’ a job of work that doesn’t utilize all of your skills, working for a boss who doesn’t value you or recognize or acknowledge your potential and perhaps your role isn’t offering you the opportunities you believe you deserve. In this example your intentional self is probably the most authentic expression of what and who you are. You might be ‘doing’ your job very well but your ‘being’- body language and emotional responses to others you assist – will undoubtedly be expressing your ‘authentic’ intentions. In cases like this in the event that you communicate anything besides everything you genuinely intend you may well be perceived as behaving in-authentically – perhaps without even realizing it. Here is the time for you to reset your intentions and consciously choose a different authentic you that will assist you better. It could be as you are able to tap to the authentic you that enjoys the physical facet of the work or start to explore and expand your authentic emotional self. How might you become authentically more touching your emotions in ways that benefits both your colleagues and customers? Perhaps your intellectual self could offer more to your boss than you currently share. What impact might that have?
Even as we consciously determine which self expressing, when, to whom and how, we could start to integrate all 4 dimensions in a flow of ‘being’ that increases our feeling of authenticity.