A reporter once asked Gandhi’s wife how it was possible for her husband to give such long public speeches without any notes or references. Her response was that it was easy for him as what he thought, said and did were all the same. That is authentic communication at its best.
How authentic is your communication at the moment?
Communication is “the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium”.
Authentic can be defined as “of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine; based on facts; accurate or reliable, worthy of trust, reliance or belief”.
Do these definitions resonate with what you say or what you hear?
The more tools we have that allow for arms‑length communication the less authentic we are. We lie when we fill in the online dating forms, we pride ourselves on how many ‘likes’ and Facebook friends we have, yet we still sit at home alone. We decry the cyber bullying faced by our children while at the same time manipulating our own public persona so that strangers we will never meet think more of us. Have we always been this way?
In our early years, before we became conditioned and judgmental, we communicated authentically. Babies know no other way: what they want, they ask for. But as we grow, we become conditioned. We form tribes and learn to judge all that surrounds us based on the conditioning of our identity (race, religion, socio‑economic position, beliefs etc.). We cease being authentic in our communication, instead adopting a more calculating and manipulative approach.
We talk in a language based on our conditioning and identity that become self-fulfilling, instead of speaking our truth. When we speak we are judgmental and aggressive, not compassionate and authentic. Everything we are surrounded by teaches us we should conceal the truth. We tell people only “what they need to know” – which is in fact not necessarily what they need to know but rather what we wish to tell them.
This lack of authenticity permeates all that we do – individually and collectively. As individuals we judge everything around us; as nations, we spy on our friends in the interests of national security. There is little authentic communication occurring when we engage with each other in a social or business setting.
In business, the dog-eat-dog competitive world helps us to justify our lack of open authentic communication because if we tell the truth to our competitors or our clients our bottom line might suffer. And that is unthinkable. Socially we are lost inside this notion of individuality and our desire to belong to a tribe has us trapped inside Dr Seuss’ story Sneetches on Beaches. How is it that we can have hundreds if not thousands of friends or followers online, yet still are void of genuine, meaningful relationships. That is not authentic.
I am not against the tools we have for communication; I struggle with how we use them and how we have become conditioned to communicate – we do not tell the truth. The first person we don’t tell the truth to is of course ourselves. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “he surrounds himself with the true image of himself … what he is, that only can he see.”
We need to stop manipulating ourselves, our friends, our business colleagues, clients, and competitors. Who we are and what we stand for – the true image of our self – needs to be made public. We need to be Gandhi. As Michael Leunig the Australian cartoonist, writer and philosopher would say – “we need to get real”.
Try it, be authentic: to yourself and others.