Authentic is more than a buzzword. Why bother and what does it involve?
Let’s start by getting geeky!
‘True to one’s own personality, spirit or character’
Merriam Webster Dictionary
Origins of the word:
- Authenticity — authoritative. Acting on one’s own authority.
- Authentikos (Greek) Principle. Genuine. Based on fact.
To be authentic involves an intent to be open to your audience, to connect with them and to be passionate about the topic.
There is perceived and real authenticity to consider — but maybe for another time.
Trunen (2011) researched the idea of ‘perceived authenticity’ as applied to brands.
He said this:
..perceived authenticity is a construct negotiated and interpreted by the consumer, generated through personal experiences and interpreted within the social context. In this sense, perceived authenticity is a social construct rather than an objectively defined reality.
Benefits of being Authentic
The benefits are many and varied — here are some big ones:
- Trust building (client and referral producing)- in a cynical world
- Build a bond with your listener — connect
- Feel aligned — less likely to be nagged by the ‘inner critic’ demons
- Own your space
When in-authenticity creeps in — so does conflict, misunderstanding and disconnection. Being aware of your authenticity levels will make the following communication activities way more effective — more engaging.
- Presenting or giving a talk
- Networking — the chat and the pitch
- Group communication — meetings
- Sales (not always easy — down to good company policy often)
How to be Authentic
1. Be aware of these 3 elements
Have a look at these 3 elements but don’t skip the next bit — the tweaks — they are a vital part of the mix.
- Be aware that you are multifaceted.
- Be aware of your values
- Be a natural communicator
1. You are multifaceted
There is not such thing as your one authentic ‘set in stone’ self
- ‘It is liberating to understand the self and the world to be unstable, imperfect and fragmented. This gives us all the more opportunity to shift things on micro levels constantly. We alter things at a small, daily level, and if we’re successful we eventually build tremendous communities around us in which we, and other people, can flourish.’ Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh
The whole relaxed ‘you’ slobbing on the sofa at the weekend is not the same as the more ‘deliberately managed’ ‘you’ at a new client meeting — agree? That does not mean either version is lacking in authenticity — they are both you. If you find yourself becoming completely at odds with ‘you’ in that client meeting — then you need to observe and unpack — you need to feel ownership of you and in control of the ‘managing’.
2. Be aware of your values
Part of being authentic involves being aware of your values — and not betraying them!
In other words — don’t try to be someone else because you have some sense that being that person is what ‘people want or expect’ — or some sort of ‘fear’ about speaking up or sticking to your opinion in a group situation. Being aware of your values helps you remain ‘grounded’ and relaxed in the knowledge that you are being ‘true to yourself’.
3. Be a natural communicator
The days of fancy words and sounding ‘superior’ are gone! Now more than ever there is a yearning for straight talking that makes sense. Part of being authentic is talking and presenting in a real way — using words that you would normally use — not acronyms and jargon all over the place.
Ah — but I normally use fancy words!
Well — fair enough — we would not consider David Attenborough to be authentic if he tried to spatter his language with some kind of ‘street’ talk… or indeed Adele if she started using fancy long words from another era.
So — be you — just try to stick to normal words that invite shared understanding.
2. Apply these ‘tweaks’
It might seem ‘wrong’ to mess with authenticity — after all should’t it just be totally natural?
Actually — it is not ‘wrong’ or manipulative to apply tweaks to the above 3 elements in order to make communication work at full effectiveness. It is all to do with the vital consideration of context and being present.
- Adapt to the situation. Let the most suitable ‘you’ out to play!
- Be open to different opinions. Don’t betray your values but don’t cling on to them and refuse to listen to other perspectives — good listeners build trust).
- Use rapport skills. Energy matching, non-verbal language, active listening, empathy….
To sum up
You might think it impossible to lose your authentic voice — but it is and we do. We are living in a world full of over-comparing (social media) and too many meme and ‘must do’ advice — all of which can mess with us owning ourselves. Of course you must use some filters and ‘lean in’ to build rapport … skills you should practice… but the foundation should be an awareness of your lovely multifaceted self, your values and a confidence in using normal language rather than hiding behind fancy stuff.