Authentic communication is not always easy, but it is the basis of successful relationships at home and real effectiveness at work. Yet people constantly back away from honesty to protect themselves and others.
As Sheryl Sandberg points out, this reticence causes and perpetuates all kinds of problems: uncomfortable issues that never get addressed, resentment that builds, unfit managers who get promoted rather than fired, and on and on. Often these situations don’t improve because no one tells anyone what is really happening. We are so rarely brave enough to tell the truth…
From The Grumpy Poet
However, authentic communication is not simply about saying what we think at all costs. Communication works best when we combine appropriateness with authenticity, finding the sweet spot where opinions are not brutally honest but delicately honest. Speaking truth fully without hurting feelings comes naturally to some and is an acquired skill for others.
Communicaid identifies the following key elements of authentic communication:
- Take responsibility for your communication and this means not only for what you say but also ensuring it has been fully understood. You need to have ownership of the message and be responsible for any fall-out or negative response.
- Be clear in your use of language so that you are not misinterpreted. Avoid ambiguous language and technical or specialist jargon that may not be understood.
- Tell the truth – make sure your facts are accurate and don’t make false promises or leave people to make assumptions that are misplaced. Also be wary of not making promises that you will not be able to deliver on.
- Don’t over-generalise or make sweeping statements such as, ‘Nobody thinks it’s a good idea’ or ‘This always happens’.
- Work with the facts and be aware of the difference between your subjective opinions and the objective facts. Avoid second guessing and making assumptions about what others are feeling, thinking or meaning. If in doubt, ask for clarification.
- Build a connection with the people you are communicating with. Show them that you care and are interested in them.
- Be consistent both in what you say but also how you follow up. Your words should match your actions and you should always endeavour to do what you say you will do within the timeframe you have promised
- Create mutual understanding by being prepared to share a little bit about yourself and by being curious about others. Empathise with other perspectives and always try to imagine yourself in the others’ shoes.
- Build your self-awareness and keep learning about yourself. Be aware of your own judgements and prejudices and the obstacles that prevent you from communicating authentically. Monitor your own negative responses and learn to manage your reactions to certain triggers.
In addition to creating better relationships, building trust, managing conflict more effectively and improving team spirit, authenticity helps to create happier, more self-confident and open individuals.