Why We All Struggle to Communicate Authentically, and How to Overcome It

In a world that’s so divided, it’s easy to see the benefits of authentic communication. But why is it so difficult to do?

Fear.

The fear of how we’ll be perceived. The fear of failure. The fear of not being accepted. Fear is the biggest inhibitor of communicating authentically.

I’ve been observing, researching and experimenting with various ways to overcome this fear over the last 10 years. Communicating inauthentically lies at the core of the work that I do, whether my coaching clients aren’t fully communicating their authentic selves to colleagues, principals, opposing counsel, judges, an employer about a prospective job, or even to themselves.

Here’s what I’ve learned. Communicating authentically isn’t about adding more. It’s not about becoming more competent at communicating. It’s about peeling off the layers. It’s an exercise in subtraction. And it starts with humility.

When we acknowledge that we’re afraid and have no way of figuring out things on our own, and ask for help. It’s in that moment, that we’re communicating authentically.

When we’re reminded that our own opinions are the least interesting to learn, because we already know them, and take the time to listen to others (Seung Chan Lim, Realizing Empathy: An Inquiry Into the Meaning of Making at 187). It’s in that moment, that we’re communicating authentically.

Here’s one example that may resonate with you:

Have you ever worked with someone who rubs you the wrong way? What if that person came up with an innovative argument on a file you’re working on together: would you recognize this as an opportunity not just to listen about how they came up with the argument, but also learn something new about that person? Can you be a powerful listener and work on empathy?

Do you see how humility can help here?

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