What is authentic communication and how can we do it more easily?
Authentic Communication - Making the connection
Jeremy has suggested that I write something about authentic communication to kick this page off and I'm happy to.
I've been coaching people in authentic communication and authentic public speaking for the last couple of years (after 15 years doing somewhat less authentic communication as a barrister, followed by some pretty radical retraining). I have worked with some amazing teachers in this field and I'm making (what I find to be) some very exciting discoveries along the way.
The most important thing that I'm discovering about this field is that the key to authentic communication is (not surprisingly) making a real connection with the people you're speaking to. And the key to *that* is really allowing yourself to see them and allowing yourself to be seen.
This is easy to say, and slightly harder to do!
For me to really see another involves (at least to some degree) putting down my filters and prejudgments and to make a simple connection with them - perceiving them fresh, as if for the first time. When this happens the seeing feels new and exciting.
To really allow another to see me, involves me being willing to let them see me as I really am in that moment and to let them into my world. This involves a degree of vulnerability. I don't have to show them everything, but I do have to show them something, and something that is true right now. This can sometimes feel like a bit of a challenge, but almost always feels worth it when I manage.
The happy side effect of allowing ourselves to see and be seen (which in my work we call “relational presence”) is that it is enormously enjoyable and very relaxing for both our minds and our bodies. Our systems seem to get a great sense of safety from being in a real connection with other human beings. (There is some interesting research by a scientist called Dr Stephen Porges that I might write about another time, which seems to offer some scientific explanation as to why seeing and being seen makes us feel safe).
This way of communicating or being with others also creates a really deep sense of connection and rapport. There is real sense of *meeting* the other person, whether we are speaking or listening in that moment, which is really exciting and enlivening.
If you'd like to have a go at practising this way of connecting, experiencing "relational presence" and exploring this effect, it's easy to do. The simplest way is by connecting with another person using soft eye contact. Then really be aware of allowing yourself to see them *and* allowing yourself to be seen by them.
We can use peripheral vision to soften our gaze so that the person we are with remains in focus, but it doesn't feel like we are staring, but more “allowing seeing to happen”.
My experience is that simply doing this one small thing can change everything in the way we relate and the way we feel about relating. It even works when we are speaking to a group of people, provided that we take them in one by one and stay long enough with each of them to allow ourselves to really “land” and take them in.
To speak to another or to a group of others from this place of soft available connection is a powerful, touching and beautiful thing. I've always found that the results are surprising and delightful, both for me and the people I coach.
This is something that anyone can practice whenever they want to make their communication more relational and more authentic, simply by using the guidelines I've sketched out above. Do give it a try and let me know how you get on.
If you have any questions, do feel free to ask them here, or get in touch with me via my page.