Yes – totally full out?
Only sometimes with some people?
No, not at all and wondering what the purpose is anyhow?
I’m going to guess that for most of you, your experience was in the category of “I’m authentic, vulnerable and courageous … only with some people and related to some topics.” Why? Let’s revisit Mr. Huxley’s quote:
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
His use of the word “perception” could readily be replaced with interpretation or assumption. These mental gymnastics occur constantly, instantaneously, and often times below our own radar of awareness. You may recognize it as anxiety or tension, or as a fragile hope.
Each of us has developed a defense mechanism that influences our behavior … it helps us decide if it’s OK to be, to say or to do that which is real and representative of our values, beliefs and character. And we tend to be more authentic, vulnerable and courageous when we perceive a degree of safety.
For instance, if you believe another person can exert control over an important element of your life (career, personal or family relationships, financial security) and he or she espouses an opinion that you strongly disagree with, how are you likely to react?
For many, taking a politely passive route is a reasonable, politically correct response. Keep the peace.
Others might feel threatened or suffocated by not speaking up and so may be quite assertive and direct with their response. A “good offense is the best defense” sort of thing.
Both ends of this spectrum are reactions to what we may interpret or assume is likely to happen as a result of speaking candidly. Yet, the real risk is in withholding who you are.
There is always space to be conscious of our interpretations and assumptions and to express ourselves in an authentic and respectful manner. The goal is not to win the conversation, but rather to create an expansive and candid dialogue that deepens connections, solicits ideas and perspectives, and creates the space for peers and team members to be fully expressed.
Having the courage to move beyond self-limiting perceptions and into a realm of genuine, respectful connection will forever change the dynamics of your relationships. And it has the power to unleash your leadership and extend your ripple effect.
This takes a conscious effort and a deep commitment. And that brings us to another round of Practices.
1) Notice when you are withholding your perspective and assessing the safety of the environment. Take a breath and articulate what’s on your mind. If you’re feeling stuck or tongue-tied, consider starting out with, “I want to share something with you that’s important to me and also makes me a little (insert what you’re feeling … nervous, anxious, uncomfortable, etc.).” Then get it out there.
2) Look for other people in your environment (at home, work, in your community or socially) who you experience as withholding their opinions. How is that shaping their reputation or relationships? What is the impact of that approach on the organization or the people around them?
3) Notice the people in your environment who are comfortable with self-expression and do so in an effective manner. What techniques or approaches do they use that you can emulate? Practice that style and note what you generate. Don’t be surprised if initially, these behaviors feel artificial or awkward for you. Remember, the first time you rode a bike, you probably didn’t sail smoothly down the sidewalk. This is the same kind of thing.