An experience in a recent one-on-one reminded me of how vigilant I must be to remain authentic.
I met recently with a new leader on our team. He and I are partners on one of my teams, and over the past few months, we have developed a good working relationship. He’s someone I feel safe and vulnerable with, and we often discuss deep matters.
During our conversation, we each started with our laptops open. I pulled up the notes that we had both contributed to and pushed my computer back so we could both see it.
His computer stayed facing him, and I was sitting not exactly next to him, but not across from him either. He glanced down a couple times as we talked, and I found myself getting irked.
Instead of saying what I felt, or what I wanted, I asked him if he was expecting an urgent message that he needed to watch for.
He got my hint, and closed his computer, responding that someone was messaging him, but it wasn’t urgent.
We were about to proceed discussing when I stopped.
That was not how I wanted to respond.
I apologized for my passive aggressivity and said I’d like to try that again. He started to assure me that it wasn’t a problem, and he wasn’t bothered.
My response was that I knew he wouldn’t be bothered. That’s part of what made this a safe place and a good opportunity for me to catch myself. I knew that I could be real and vulnerable with him, and wanted to seize the moment.
Growing up, I was trained that my feelings and opinions didn’t matter. The important thing was to figure out what I should do, and then to do that perfectly.
As a result, I’ve found that as an adult, I often don’t even know what my feelings or opinions are. I struggle to acknowledge, and even more to share, what I want.
I’m working on it.
I realized that I wanted him to close his computer and engage more fully in our conversation. But instead of saying that, I manipulated. I made a remark that part of me hoped would get him to do what I wanted, but without vocalizing my desire and risking rejection.
We had a nice moment of connection. As I’ve found many times in my life, being authentic opened the door for a meaningful interaction.
I still have to work hard to recognize when I am feeling or wanting something. And I have to push myself even harder to say it out loud.
But it’s worth it.
I know that it will get easier over time. Like any skill, I am starting inept and will become more competent.
Now I have the chance to help my team get in touch with what they feel and want professionally. Knowing that can open people up to thrive in their career, and most just need permission.
As a father, I want to do the same thing. My hope is that my children do not share my awkward unfamiliarity with their inner lives.
All of us could do better at being more authentic and encouraging those around us to do the same. I’m committed to working to improve. Will you join me?