There is a gorgeous magic that goes with authenticity and vulnerability that I have a very healthy respect for. Partly because of the number of times my own Sagittarian, trauma recovered, trauma trained therapist turned business and leadership coach toosh has both utilised it to help catalyse massive transformation AND admittedly, messed it up in partnership and life over the years.
Truth, when shared with heart connection, compassion and sensitivity, ultimately can help us heal, grow, brings us closer and allows us to deepen the trust and intimacy in relationships of all kinds, which is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
1- The Law of leading with what you love
This is my favourite one. This is the one that turns feedback from something potentially terrifying into something that you’re willing to cop on the chin with an open heart. Always making time to first lead with what you love and appreciate about the person or life before diving into analysis or feedback or the what NOT to do. As Mary Poppins famously put it, the spoon full of sugar (or rather heart centred compassion) really does help the medicine go down in this respect.
Strategy: What does that look like practically? Suppose person A is a Mentee of Person B and sitting there with person B asking for and wanting help, but then (due to their highly independent nature and self long practice self reliance, keeps trying to talk through the solution themselves. Person B who is waiting for their moment to jump in, projects their loving presence right up in front of person A’s face, while gaining their eye contact (to remind them that they are no longer navigating this alone, with the intent to guide them through this process). Then person B tells them 3 things they love about person A. THEN they ask person A if they can listen for just a minute so they can help person A and give their perspective on what’s going on. Person A, feeling the other and realising what they’re doing and what they asked for, freaking LOVES it when person B does that and responds with a “yes, please, I really value your perspective and appreciate your help and support.” Person A takes on board the feedback and takes it pretty well (occasionally, they might shed a tear or two, because, like most humans, it actually kills them the thought of getting it wrong or hurting anyone at all, let alone letting down the people they love most.) This approach works because there’s already a lot of love, trust and good humour built between person A and B that they can pretty much just, with heart, be straight up with each other and in NO WAY is it taken as offensive. And that’s the point.
Take away: Awkward, hard truths and potentially emotive feedback goes down much better when you’re heart connected, fully present and deliver it with compassion and a good helping of, in just the right moments, a little humour to lighten the mood.
2- The law of authentic discernment:
This starts and ends with one question: does what I’m about to share aid or detract from the values, intentions and agreements we have within this relationship? If yes, share on. If not, what is the benefit of sharing it? As one of my past business partners and Justin Timberlake alike recently made famous through the song “Say Something,”
"Sometimes the greatest way of saying something, is to say nothing at all.”
If catharsis, authenticity for the sake of authenticity, acknowledgement or being right is the real agenda, take it from someone who’s learned this the hard way. RETHINK saying it out loud. As Crystal Dujowich of the Valencore team put it, remember to consider these 4 things....
3- The law of authentic depth:
When you share a vulnerable, authentic share, people’s ability to engage with it, is directly proportional to the depth of their own emotional tolerability threshold. If what you share is within the realm of things they too have experienced or have had first hand experience dealing with, or have watched someone else deal with second hand, they will feel more comfortable and competent to engage with the subject matter or content. If however, it’s a long way into the unfamiliar or shadow territory for them in terms of having put right there in their face the stuff about themselves they perhaps weren’t ready to confront yet or would really prefer NOT to see right now, and or it affects them a little too deeply in a context they may not have been expecting (like it just suddenly appeared in their social media feed, or they really don’t know you that well), people may have an averse response to engaging, rather than be drawn towards engaging.
Remedy: where possible, it helps if we can ask for permission before we share and share using the tips in the following points to come, particularly in relationship to social media, to create an environment for respectful, consent-driven engagement.
But there’s also an element of surrender in this in first remembering that a) trust and intimacy in human connection of all forms (and with your audience) takes time to build and can just as quickly easily be lost if we don’t respect the power of impact of our shares. And in one way, even when we exercise discernment and compassion, what we ultimately have the control over changing is our own state and presence, we can’t change other people’s shadow and what goes on in their heads. We have to respect that they either will or won’t be ready and or willing to engage with you and its their choice wether they go there with you in any given interaction, or they don’t, based on whatever their aspirations, values and desires are in life too. Some people will love the real us, some people won’t. It is what it is. For every person, just remember though, there are 3 more that will be perfectly aligned with and wiling to go there WITH us.
4-The law of Therapist and Client comfort in transformation shares:
For all of population who have either been trained as Counsellors, Coaches, therapists, transformationologists, capable of holding trauma and deep transformational work, we have developed a much greater tolerance of authentic depth and sharing of deep emotional reflection than the average person on the street. Likewise, anyone who’s ever engaged in these services (e.g. clients) who’ve been in therapy or transformative processes come to share over time that same tolerance threshold of the depths of human emotional complexity and they have a similar higher threshold for engaging with “human realness.” If we’re not mindful in the impact of what we’re delivering, our shares may actually see their eyes explode, jaws drop and induce an excuse for their speedy exit. Primary lesson: wether a personal development veteran or a Therapist/Counsellor/Coach with a duty of care, remember, some people out there still have everything that is now “normal” to you in their “unknown/unaware” section of their awareness. In other words we have to be mindful of the potential and literal impact of what comes out one’s own truth hole as personal development masters, and for Therapists/Counsellors/Coaches, as per our duty of care, especially on social media, where there’s no real world cues to interpret for further clarification, if we want our audience to feel safe to come closer.
5-The law of vicarious social share trauma:
In this day and age, in a Facebook or Twitter or Insta feed, it’s a split second scroll between a post about cats doing funny stuff and a highly triggering animal welfare post about abused cats. Which, to each person’s human brain and consciousness comprehending it, we must remember, has a psychological impact. There is a very real thing that happens now of the risk of highly spontaneous and vicarious trauma occurring from what shows up in one’s feed that comes as a shock to the system.
Remedy: that is not to say DON’T share. As above, that is simply to say that
we can help reduce the risk of shock-type impact by contextualising and giving warning tags about emotive posts or personal shares which might be of a sensitive nature #sensitivepost
which can give people around us the heads-up about what lies ahead so they can choose to engage or not engage accordingly, in that moment, or at a later time of their choosing.
6- The law of stage specific engagement in healing:
You may remember that model I shared a couple of months back about the stages of trauma recovery? There is a social law that applies here to authenticity. People will engage or react to your shares according to what phase of the healing journey they are in. If you like, check back on this post for a recap.
Remedy: as a population, it would be handy for us all to have knowledge of the healing process so that we also know how best to relate with and support each other and can have compassion for each other in terms of recognising the need (and right) of each to be present with whatever stage they’re at and engage or not engage based on the inherent needs of that specific stage. This is how we can all lovingly support each other in this, as a human family, trusting that connection, support and whatever else we need will always be available at whatever stage we’re at.
7- The law of the elephant memory:
When it comes to traumatic reactions, unconsciously, people might miss 26 of your positive posts, but there is a tendency to NOT forget that one thing you shared that impacted them and their sense of internal safety. The brain is designed to recognise and NOT to forget it in fact. If someone has put you in the “unsafe” zone, you might well be on the receiving end of withdrawn attention and the silent treatement. So this may also come with a post share or social engagement lag period, while someone impacted by a share may impose an unspoken social block-out and avoid you for a little bit, so they don’t have to deal with your/their shadow elephant. Until they’ve witnessed you share enough (and after that they’ve owned and processed enough) to trust that they can feel safe to engage with you at a suitably comfortable, situation appropriate and positive engagement level of authentic engagement again.
8- The law of authentic permission seeking:
There exists an unconscious social convention whereby one is expected to actually a) ask for permission to share something personal before one just unloads something highly emotive or engage the other in essentially holding space while the other person works through a process and b) appropriately contextualise what you’re about to share so that people can make a choice about whether they engage or they don’t and c) wether temporarily (because maybe it’s not a great time right now, but it may be a better time at 3pm Tues) or the other extreme of indefinitely.
Remedy: wether professional or personal, where there’s to be one on one engagement, ask if you can “share something with the other that may be a little emotive in nature or is about your process right now, is that cool with you?” Likewise, in a business or therapeutic context, it’s good to ask if we can share a personal disclosure that we deem may be relevant to the person in front of us, given what they just said or where they’re at. Personally speaking, it’s good to be straight up, heart-centred direct if you recognise that you’re needing someone to hold process or witness you right now, and if it’s appropriate (given the nature of your engagement), would they be willing to hold that space for you? If they’re a client or potential one though, read on to the next….
9- The law of authentic business role appropriate sharing.
This is an extension of the Practitioner one and is a big one for social media and relates to the primary purpose for which one has engaged people on their social media channels and the context of wether it’s in a personal or business relationship between the members of the audience and the owner of the account. Generally speaking, if the account is for business purposes, then there will be an expectation that you the professional are providing a service and content to the audience and an expectation that you be giving to them and holding space for them where appropriate. Not to mention a set of real world ethical professional considerations regarding the Coach/Therapist Client relationship STILL actually apply in the online realm. But the feeling of permissiveness and freedom that social media has provided in terms of consequence free sharing and “me” focussed sharing in the spirit of authenticity and vulnerability has lead to a therapeutic blurring of the boundaries. Where now we have therapists/transformational people sharing THEIR live personal process with the audience and PULLING energy from the client audience they are wanting to serve and/or who may be paying them FOR a service.
But its worth remembering, AS the service provider , because of the power over dynamic that can inherently exist in this ind of relationship and relative to the stage of healing the client or potential client is in, is it actually the best thing for them to be laying this kind of authenticity on them? Will it potentially create confusion and maybe increase the risk of what therapists call “transference?” Yes we’re all grown adults and have the right to choose what we do and don’t engage with. BUT, it’s worth remembering that, when people’s wounds and trauma is up, it may not be the conscious adult part of them that’s actually running the show…and we need to just be a bit mindful of that when we’re sharing in a professional context, where duty of care applies.
Remedy: To simply the whole matter, we can ask ourselves one simple question before sharing.
Is this about me or is this about them? Eg, is it about my personal process and are you REALLY actually wanting people to hold space for you and acknowledge you right now? Or is it a “lesson already learned, now I want to share the gold” type moment?
On social media, we can tag our posts accordingly with something like #personalpost and a first sentence that clearly, directly states that “you’re working through something right now and asks for audience input if that’s ok with them (if not feel free to scroll on)” or (possibly more ideally) the other possibility is to group your contacts into various professional categories/lists and tag your audience accordingly (e.g. share with close friends only on FB), not your wider, public audience.
Or, if you’re already at the point with the process where you’ve got the gold and can now teach the gold, share it from that place as an educational post. With a #sensitivecontentwarning if there’s content of a potentially sensitive nature.
10- The law of authentic business testimonial disclosure
As a separate add on to that, respect for confidentiality and privacy law is another big concern right now, in that I’m seeing that there are A LOT of messages from clients being shared straight to social media and I’m wondering, from a Therapist perspective and a business perspective if permission is being sort for all of these.
Remedy: Likewise, before sharing even a de-identified client story or testimonial, remember we’re meant to get consent for that
(Under Australian Privacy Law for example, no matter what type of client or customer, it’s a legal requirement that we’re meant to ask in fact.). Even if it’s de-identified, a client may pick it as being about them regardless….and then you’ve just risked compromising trust. So, key takeaway, always remember to ask them, is it ok if I share this de-identified, or as a direct testimonial with your audience?
11- The Law of unsolicited professional opinion sharing
And finally, this one is the professional advise side of number 8, but from a professional standpoint, where we feel compelled to help or support a person or persons, regardless of wether they actually asked for our authentic opinion and advise or not.
Remedy: Easily solved with one question:
Can I provide some coaching/share my perspective on that?
Now the other person can say no (in which case, respect it) or yes and with the green professional light, you’re free to provide your awesome expert perspective. And again, they’re free to take it on board or leave it.
I could go on for more, but for the sake of digestibility, let’s call it at that for today, hey?
There is a gorgeous magic that goes with authenticity and vulnerability. When shared with heart connection, compassion and sensitivity, It ultimately does help us heal, brings us closer and allows us to deepen the trust and intimacy in relationships of all kinds, which is a beautiful, beautiful thing. But like any craft, authentic truth sharing, like wielding a sword, for business and personal purposes, is an art form that must be respected for it’s power and capacity to impact and influence in either the negative or positive direction.
To quote Leadership expert Chris Cancialosi, “Leading authentically isn’t simply about being yourself and living up to your values; sometimes it also means developing the ability to adapt. Understanding true authenticity means that if you need to shift your views and values, you must consider letting go of some aspect of your past self and learn to be authentic to your future self.”
In other words, sometimes the challenge of being authentic is to own the slightly undesirable aspects of one’s shadow self, find the light-side expression of that exact same trait and embody that aspect fully now in the present instead.
Crystal Dujowich, How to Avoid Unloading Your Truth: 4 Reflective Prompts for Mindful Leadership Voice, October 13, 2016
Chris Cancialosi, 6 Authentic Leadership Tips for Overcoming Your Fears, May 30 2015
Taylor Peyton Roberts, The Disturbing Truth about Just Being Authentic, Oct 20, 2016
Nat talks about Self Expression, Heart Centred Communication and Lifestyle for Leaders.