Friday, July 3, 2009

Can You Be Nice AND Authentic?

When your coach asks you to think about becoming more authentic, it's not a warm and fuzzy feeling. You get this uneasy suspicion that you haven't been as honest as you'd like, even though you value complete transparency. It was for me, however, a gentle reminder about how easy it is to play the game of pleasing others, and failing to express yourself with complete transparency.

The downside to this pattern is that you can become fake. Yuck!

I recently read that it takes great courage to always express your preferences while being prepared to let go of some of them if needed. I think one really big key to living authentically is what my dad calls, "disagreeing without being disagreeable."

Or as Isaac Newton put it, "Tact is making a point without making an enemy."

Being kind and authentic is a challenge that truly makes life more interesting. Here are some guidelines that have helped me:

1. Always keep on the lookout for honest positives. You may not like the broccoli casserole, but you can rave about the brussel sprouts (that would certainly impress me!)

2. At times it will be in your best interest to say, go to a dinner when you'd rather stay home and watch a movie. Sometimes the dinner turns out to be much more fun than you thought, and usually it's good to share with people anyway. But, don't try to convince yourself that you don't really want to stay home, admit the truth to yourself, and go to the dinner. There will be times, however, that you must stay home. Only you can make that call.

3. One thing that has really helped me is realizing that I don't have to explain myself. For some reason, I used to always want to explain myself - even telling the Wal-mart cashier why I wanted one brand and not another, or why I wanted to pay with exact change. Who cares?

4. If you need to give some negative feedback, sandwich that comment between two honest positives.

5. Allow others to disagree with you. It's a free country, and no two people are ever going to see every single issue eye-to-eye.

Like so many personal growth issues, awareness is an excellent starting point. It has taken me a long time to see that in trying to please so many people in my life, I let myself get locked into a pattern that caused me to be unreliable, always changing, always seeking that elusive approval.

I'm not as nice as I used to be, but I feel more comfortable with myself. And that has made me a more confident person.