Am I Authentic in my Communication?
What gets in the way of us communicating more authentically? This blog shares a personal perspective and suggests some practices to be more authentic in relationships.
I love how straight-to-the point my son is. Recently, he witnessed two adults greeting each other, and when they parted ways, he turned to me and said: ‘they didn’t mean anything they said. I don’t understand why you adults don’t say the truth to each other.’
I love the way he says straight, no glossing over. I also learn from how he shares what he needs and wants.
What is getting in the way to having deeper relationships together? And consequently, what might be getting in the way of us doing more great work together?
This blog is about exploring what authentic communication can look like, and how to cultivate some practices to make us aware of what is getting in the way of us having more authentic conversations.
Am I Being Authentic?
I often admit to myself that I am not being authentic: I catch myself being over-polite, over careful of not upsetting the other, of looking smarter of more confident than I am, or wanting to hide my fears and concerns.
And yet, when I do this, I feel I lose out from being real in relationships: I feel I lose the intimacy I am looking for, I lose touch with my needs and thoughts, and lose the courage to stretch and develop myself.
On the other hand, as Venita Ramirez explains, authentic communication:
. Can be clear, curious and compassionate
. Creates greater closeness and intimacy in relationships
. Allows you to stay in touch with yourself, as it increases awareness of physical and emotional needs
. Can be a way to learn, grow, heal, to transform and to update old self-images of the self
. Enables us to learn how we are changing (as we may be changing every moment in time)
Through these words, I am learning that it is possible to reveal how we think and feel, and do it in a way that is mindful and caring.
Humans as Interpreting Beings?
I am learning how communication is an art form, and that listening has a great role in the way a two-way communication can go: the way one chooses to listen (whether in a judgmental or pro-active and caring manner) can shape the quality of what is spoken (we feel more comfortable and open to speak at length with those who listen deeply, and who accept us as we are in that moment). In a way, we have a choice of how we interpret what we hear.
Venita explains how what we interpret varies, and is shaped by the environment (our country of origin, our education, past experiences and social and political beliefs) we are in, which can shape the view of others. Our own interests and values can influence the way we view things.
I feel excitement when I also realize that we can change and shape our perspectives as we develop as adults, by the new things we learn, and by the choices we make.
And as we do so, we can take responsibility in relationships, practice authentic communication, and choose what to take in from what the other shares with us. As Kim Frerichs explains, when we hear feedback, or someone’s opinion, we can ask ourselves: ‘From what I am hearing, what is useful? What is there to take in, and what is it that is not relevant for me?’
Healthy Boundaries in Communication
Creating a balance in what we give and receive in communication, and what is ours to own and what is separate from us, can help us maintain harmonious relationships. Indeed, boundaries in communication can:
. keep us sane and safe (according to our mood and perspective, what kind of communication are we ready to engage in?)
. helps us to communicate to others what we need and where we stand at a particular point in time (since our boundaries may change moment to moment, and person to person)
. enables others to engage with us authentically
Are we actually aware of the necessity of these boundaries, and how they can change from time to time?
Practicing Authentic Communication
Unless we engage in communication, we are not able to check our interpretations/ assumptions with others. And unless we hear what the other has to say, we may not know what could be getting in the way of us deepening our relationship. All of these are opportunities to be real and truthful.
I have been practicing a communication model I have found helpful. It involves preparing oneself for that communication, and being to give and receive in that interaction.
Before starting, it’s important to pay attention to how we feel in our body (any tensions or pain anywhere – we ‘embody our feelings in our body’), our mind, emotions and more. One can then notice one’s judgments, interpretations and reactions to the self and others. This can then enable us to stay curious and open to what we really wish to express at that moment in time.
As Venita Ramirez writes, ‘if a judgment or reaction hinders your ability to be close and present then communicate it, check your intention’ (is it be closer to the other, to understand or to judge?).
In this model, you then:
Ask for permission from the other(s) and set a time to talk
Prepare to feel and express from a place of vulnerability and care (taking a deep breath helps), and say:
– ‘I find myself feeling (distant, anxious, angry, sad, excited, or other)’
– ‘When I see you (describe concrete behavior)’
– ‘I interpret or judge or imagine…’
– ‘Is this what you intend/ mean?’
After having said this, check it out and stay curious.
As a recipient of the communication (in Venita’s words):
- Breathe, feel your feelings (they may not feel positive, but just being aware of them can make a difference)
- Know that the communication is a gift even if difficult to hear.
- Listen and consider what about this may be true for you and what of it may be the other’s interpretation
- If possible let the other know that you heard what they are saying. And respond.
- You may or may not have a communication of your own to clear.
It is important to remember that what is being said everything is at least partially true and partially an interpretation. Communication helps distinguish the two, can deepen trust, love, intimacy (or knowing one another authentically).
Respect and Trustworthiness
I have found the above practice challenging at times, but if practiced with care, one that fosters respect and believability.
Trying it Out
You may be someone who practices authentic communication every day. If so, please share your experiences and how it is for you.
If not, I encourage you to practice more of it. I started with friends and loved ones, who were encouraging me to, and created a safe environment for that. I invite you to notice what shifts in yourself and in your relationships when you do this more and more. And if you share, what is easy and challenging?
Thanks in advance for sharing your wisdom.
Note: Many thanks to Venita Ramirez and Kim Frerichs of Pacific Integral for teaching me this. I appreciate you as great mentors and colleagues.