A few weeks ago, I wrote a Blog post about Being Authentic. I received a few emails and a comment asking me to give some examples demonstrating exactly what someone would say in a truly authentic conversation. So, dear readers, that is what I’m going to give you today. If you like this post and would like to see more of this kind, leave me a comment below and let me know.
A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine and I were trying to get together. We scheduled to meet on a certain day, but then he cancelled at the last minute. We tried again a few days later, and he cancelled again. This happened four times. After the fourth time, I started to lose my Zen about the whole thing. Why was he cancelling all the time? Didn’t he like me anymore? Did he not want to be my friend anymore? Had I done something wrong? What had I done wrong? Why hadn’t he told me? Or was he just an insensitive bastard… Didn’t he realize how he was making me feel?
After I let the crazy go round and round in my head for a bit, my sanity returned at least somewhat and I started to analyze my reaction. I knew that no one could make me feel anything. There was something going on inside me that was causing me to feel this way. I just had to figure out what it was, which wasn’t hard in this case. I was feeling rejected and abandoned. This innocent scheduling snafu had activated a vibration that had been with me since childhood. Someone I cared about had repeatedly cancelled on me, which instantly sent my mind to a dark place. It had to be my fault. There was clearly something wrong with me, otherwise he wouldn’t be acting this way. Thoughts like this are incredibly painful, and it’s so much easier to blame the other person than to deal with them. But that’s what authenticity is: being honest in all situations – first and foremost with yourself. And the honest truth was that I was having thoughts about myself that were causing me to feel bad. It had nothing to do with my friend’s behavior.
Now, if this incident had happened ten years earlier, I would’ve most likely reacted very differently. I wouldn’t have recognized that this was more about me than anyone else, and wouldn’t have confronted my friend directly (which I’ll get to in a moment). I would’ve used my defensive mechanism of choice: passive-aggressive sniping cloaked in wounded sweetness.
My friend: “How are you?”
Me: “Oh, fine. Just fine. *puppy dog eyes* So nice of you to care. It’s so sweet when friends care enough about you to check up on you…” Etc, etc. Gag.
I would’ve hoped that with enough prodding, my friend would get the hint and figure out (magically, no doubt) that he’d hurt me and would shower me with apologies. This would make me feel validated and, more importantly, like I’d won. Man, when I think of this from this perspective, it really sounds slightly insane. The problem is, that this technique does often work, at least to some extent. You can guilt people into all kinds of behavior. Even if they don’t know what they did “wrong”, they get the idea that they’ve somehow made you feel bad, and they want to make you feel better. So they pay more attention to you, which is all that the wounded victim really wants. But this is always just a temporary band aid – you can’t permanently feel better by feeding your limiting beliefs.
Thankfully, this didn’t happen ten years ago, and I had learned too much by this point to throw a princessy hissy fit. If I was hurting, I had to deal with it. I could ask my friend to help me, but I could not make him responsible for what I was feeling. That was my issue to own and deal with. So, what actually transpired was very different to the passive-aggressive scenario above:
My friend: “How are you?”
Me: “Honestly? I’m feeling insecure.”
My friend: “Why?”
Me: “You cancelled on me several times over the last couple of weeks, and it’s brought up all kinds of issues for me. I’m feeling a bit rejected, or like I did something wrong.”
My friend: “You didn’t do anything wrong. Do you need me to reassure you?”
Me: “Yes, please.”
My friend: “I was having some issues that I had to deal with. It had nothing to do with you. I didn’t want to cancel on you, but I didn’t have a choice. Just because I can’t always be here doesn’t mean I don’t love you. And you know you can call me anytime if you need me right?”
Now, you might think I paraphrased a bit, or doctored the conversation to make it seem more authentic, but I swear, this is a word for word account of what happened, to the degree of accuracy that my blond brain can recall it. I was honest, I owned my issue, and my friend responded with incredible depth and honesty himself. When you approach people authentically, they generally respond in kind. No joke.
Instead of a friendship based on manipulation and guilt, we have a real friendship based on who we really are. And it’s beautiful. But in order to have a relationship like this (with anyone), you first have to be willing to be honest with yourself. Notice that I figured out that I had an issue before I ever approached my friend. Now that I have more practice, I can generally do this in the moment, but when I was still taking baby steps, I had to get myself ready to have that conversation. And believe me, I was terrified. What if he had rejected me? What if I had done something wrong? But there was no way to know without asking. If I wanted the friendship to continue to evolve, I had to suck it up and take a chance.
Authenticity requires 3 things:
- Be honest with yourself. If you feel bad, it’s your issue. No one can make you feel anything. Your feelings are an indication of the thoughts you’re having and how well they’re serving you. That’s all. Own your feelings.
- Figure out what thoughts you’re having that are causing you to feel this way. Get clarity first.
- Have the courage to be honest with the other person. Share your insights, without ever making them responsible for your emotions, and ask them to help you through it. They can reassure you and help you see the situation from a different perspective, but only if you give them a chance to. Blame them for your pain and they will shut down.
Oh, and “Do you want me to reassure you?” is possibly the best thing I been asked, ever.
Was this post helpful to you? Would you like to see more like it? Do you have an example of an authentic conversation you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!