“Honest, open communication is the only street that’s leads us into the real world…We then begin to grow as never before. And once we are on this road, happiness cannot be far away”– John Powell.
Communication, we all do it daily and I’m sure most of us probably think we are great communicators! I mean we talk, we listen, we have conversations but if we are completely honest with ourselves, how good are we really at authentic communication?
I can see your faces as you read this, asking yourselves “what is she banging on about”. Well let me tell you- there is a huge difference between talking to someone and raw, truthful communication. Society has driven this false belief that negative feelings and discussion are bad and so many of us have brought into this rubbish. So instead of open, honest and sometimes difficult conversations we rely on pretending everything is good and look down upon those who actually have the courage to be vulnerable.
We have gone so far down the rabbit hole of bullshit, that many of us have forgotten how to be authentic. How to speak our truth. How to be brave and openly and honestly discuss how we are really feeling. So concerned are we of the judgement of others that we hide parts of ourselves. Or more concerning we create personas that we think others would like but ultimately it’s just a manipulation of the truth of who we are.
So how can we communicate more authentically, which ultimately make us the happy and genuine person the majority of us want to be?
Listen to understand not to respond
We are all guilty of this. Half listening to another because we are trying to think of our response, which does everyone a disservice because you haven’t fully comprehended what the person is saying. Or perhaps we are distracted so the person feels like they are speaking to a brick wall. There is nothing that shouts “I don’t really care about what you have to say”, then not listening to actually understand. In not listening with your full attention.
When we listen to understand, there is little need for a lot of words. We are focused on what the person is saying and what their feelings are about the situation. We are removing our own pre-conceived ideas, judgements, beliefs and perceptions so we can appreciate what they are saying.
One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.
Communication isn’t just words
When actions don’t follow the words said there is an integrity issue. How many times has someone repeatedly accepted an invitation somewhere only to pull out at the last minute or just not bother showing up? It’s such a disrespectful act and it says “you are not important to me”, “you are not even worth me keeping my word”.
Or those people who rarely make an effort to reach out but when you are in contact it’s all the bullshit platitudes and compliments. Authentic communication is honest words, followed by action and if it’s not, it really just is fake noise with absolutely no substance and sadly it comes across as shallow and meaningless.
Respect and courtesy are a necessary part of authentic communication.
When did we stop being able to have the hard conversations? Those raw, real, deep and meaningful discussions? Where we know it’s uncomfortable, maybe even painful but we also know the truth is the most important thing. Where we transparently speak of what is bothering us, what we truly want and we reveal all those hidden things that keep us from being authentic.
As we move along in a world of toxic positivity, wearing our masks and playing the roles we think we are supposed to play- we lose the ability to communicate in a meaningful way. So used to bypassing, rug sweeping, denial, distraction, trying to make ourselves look a certain way and saying what needs to be said to keep the peace, we avoid having the necessary difficult conversations that need to be had.
Because no matter how hard or painful a difficult conversation is, on the other side lies peace. Knowledge. The truth is set free. An answer is delivered. Character is revealed. Misunderstandings resolved. Authenticity is returned.
So often we are tempted to give advice- for many of us it’s in our nature to want to help someone, especially if they are distressed. But giving advice from our own perception, belief systems, experiences in most cases is not the right thing to do. People should be seen to be the master of their own life and sometimes advice we give is not only unhelpful but wrong.
What we need to do is get curious by both listening and asking a few appropriate questions that can open further dialogue and perhaps allow them to see things differently. It’s not about stepping over boundaries or prying. Maybe it’s just holding space for them-listening intently and actively is a skill and certainly one we can improve upon.
Don’t be scared to be vulnerable
Honestly, if you cannot be vulnerable, then you cannot be authentic. If you can’t communicate truthfully and openly about everything including your negative feelings, especially to those close to you, then you are never going to be happy. Happiness comes from being real-you can fake things for a time but you cannot fake things forever.
There is also a fake vulnerable, but most people if they look hard enough can see right through it. This is where people act in a vulnerable way to serve a purpose. They portray themselves in a way that from the outside makes them appear genuine, but upon a closer look you see the facade and this usually is confirmed by their actions that rarely match their words.
As Brene Brown says “vulnerability is the core, the heart, the centre, of meaningful human experiences”.
Fear is the driver behind the loss of authentic communication but without authentic communication we risk losing the soul and essence of who we are. Yes we may be able to hide something, fake something, manipulate something for our own gain or protection but the gains are short-lived. The losses will always far outweigh the gains.
The reality is if you want to be trusted, be authentic and communicate authentically-even in a world that appears to reward the opposite. When you present yourself to the world, take your mask off, strip away all the f*cking bullshit, say what you mean and mean what you say and match your actions with your words.
“Authentic communication not only involves being your true self, but also speaking and listening in such a way that you both understand”.