Authenticity has recently come to the forefront as a key driver of success for people and businesses. Neil Patel and others have talked about the importance of authenticity in business, and there are countless articles and books that talk about authenticity in personal relationships. But what is authenticity? And how do we show that we are authentic?
Like Potter Stewart, the Supreme Court justice who famously said of pornography, “I know it when I see it,” most of us have some inherent sense when someone is authentic. And we have that inherent sense because our subconscious responds to important elements of humanity in an authentic person. What we’re responding to is that person’s empathy, curiosity, concern for others, and lack of attachment to the outcome of a situation. There’s no step-by-step guide to being authentic because it’s not a process so much as a mindset, but here’s how you can get started:
Show Empathy for the Person You’re Talking toIn a business environment, we can sometimes forget that the people around us are not just gears in a machine but other human beings. Remind yourself of this and ask yourself what they might be experiencing right now.
Get CuriousIf you don’t know what they’re experiencing, ask them. Even if you think you do know what they’re experiencing, ask them. You may be surprised at the answer. And remember, what they say today could be different from what they say tomorrow. Situations change over time, and empathy and curiosity are not a box to be checked off a list. Build these into your way of being.
Show Concern for OthersThis starts with knowing your value and what you can offer to people. By starting with empathy and curiosity and listening to what people are telling you, you can begin to see how the things you have to offer can be valuable to the person you’re talking to. You show concern by offering them your value. We all have something to offer, but you have to allow them to accept or decline. They may not be interested in what you have to offer.
Avoid Attachment to OutcomesThis sounds zen, but it’s not as out there as you might think. Essentially, you have to be OK with the idea that people may not be interested in your value. If you’re pushing your own idea of your value onto someone, it’s not authentic. Nobody likes feeling like they’re being forced into a box where what you’re offering is valuable to them. Authenticity is about inspiring people to action through the positive things you have to offer, not driving them to action out of fear or forcing your value on them. Your value loses its value when it’s forced.
It can take a while to build this way of thinking into a habit, and no one’s perfect at it. There will always be situations where you look back and realize you were not being as authentic as you would have liked. Here is what to take away:
- Practice empathy and curiosity in all your conversations. Ask questions, listen to the responses, and expect to be surprised.
- Remember you’re talking to other humans, and concern for others grows out of human conversations.
- Let people know what you have to offer and realize if they don’t want it, that’s their loss.
- Inspire people to say yes. Don’t bully them into it. Find the right people and let them know what you have to offer. They will join you.