“She had blue skin,
and so did he.
He kept it hid,
and so did she.
They searched for blue
their whole life through,
and passed right by
and never knew”.
– Shel Silverstein
Authenticity is living life with your blue skin on show. When speech, actions, beliefs or thoughts are incongruent with each other this may feel jarring or difficult. Counselling can help strike a balance between these aspects of life, and find a way to enjoy life in a way that provides harmony that is congruent with our core values. Remember that being congruent is also about mastering your speech, thoughts and actions truthfully but with compassion.
We often may feel incongruent and not at one with our core values when we are rushed or feel pressured to respond in a certain way. An exercise to try when we are faced with a difficult or challenging situation and we want to remain aligned with ourselves (but with compassion for the situation) is to simply take a step back from the situation. Speak from this place and speak clearly. It’s okay to say “I’m not ready to answer and will need to consider my response” or “I feel uncomfortable with that and will have to consider my response”. Give yourself time to find your truth and answer sincerely. Give yourself regularity of speech and use your absence of vanity to reply human to human.
People may not always like the real you and we simply can’t please everyone. We just can’t. Each person you come into contact with will have a pre-conceived idea of who you are and what you should be like. They may voice their disappointment or frustration with you if you aren’t who they need you to be and this can feel challenging. But knowing you considered, spoke or acted from a place of sincerity, congruence and truth means you will worry less about their attachments to who you are because deep down in your roots and your core you will know you – and that is all that is required.
A tool that we use to evaluate the sincerity of someone is the way they listen to us. Think about what a conversation looks like between two fully present, fully sincere people. Eye contact? Closeness? Whole attention given? A technique of mindfulness which has really taken off is the art of Mindful listening. This is especially important and can really revolutionise the way to communicate with not only our family but our friends/colleagues. It involves checking yourself to ensure you are fully present and receptive to the other person. It allows you to consider yourself in an authentic way, but making sure you offer others your full attention, and are therefore able to respond in a way that is genuine and compassionate.
Some questions that may serve as prompts for mindful listening practice: How often have you been talking to someone and then after the conversation ends you realise you have no idea what they were saying? Before you speak, try to be aware of what is it that you actually want to say. What’s the message? What is your point? What do you want to convey to the person listening to you? Is this message congruent with your core values? Herbert Festerheim, author of ‘Don’t Say Yes When You Want to Say No”, offers some advice on speaking and listening in a way that is assertively authentic. He suggests that ensuring every piece of communication has a clear purpose will aid authenticity. A final nudge to yourself could be something as small as: “Is this really what I want to say?” Knowing when to pull out kindness and timidity and when to utilise our sense of empowered assertiveness can also help feelings of congruence.
Fundamentals of Mindful Listening:
- Attending to the conversation with awareness and receptivity
- Being completely present with the other person/people, free from judgement
- Being fully receptive to non-verbal parts of listening, such as body cues or facial expression
More resources and further reading:
Guest blog post by Madeleine Pownall, Opportunity 4’s assistant and writer.
Connect on Twitter: @maddi_pow or visit Madeleine’s blog www.thoughtbubblesblog.co.uk