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  • Alexandra Bond Burnett

When are you being authentic?

A few weeks ago I posted on LinkedIn about a Harvard study on trust, which ended up giving few tips on building trust in our first impressions. Quite tame I thought.


The responses, weren't quite what I thought I'd get... in fact I had some interesting replies that seemed to get a bit upset at the idea that we could change the way we gave a 1st impression.


One chap commented saying "No, just be authentic! you won't build worthwhile working relationships"... and he was absolutely right.


The thing is, although he is right in one way, on the other hand he seemed to get the wrong end of the stick - by giving suggestions on how to make a great first impression, the assumption he made that I was giving advice on how to NOT be authentic.


I found this fascinating. Why would he think I was saying that?


Here's an idea - being an authentic communicator doesn't mean there is one person of yourself you present at all times.



What is this 'authentic' people keep talking about?


The Oxford dictionary says:

Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine. Based on facts; accurate or reliable.

My communication background comes from acting - and acting methodology is centered around truth. Truth of the situation, the character of the person you're speaking with, what we want... and the environment.


All of these factors change our truth from moment to moment.

When are you being your most authentic self? Is it when you're speaking with clients?


Talking to your parents? Presenting an idea?


Communication, be it presenting, pitching or public speaking, the centre of all of communication is about being truthful to who you are, in any given state.


Authenticity is fluid.



Above I weeded out some pictures of me in various situations. From left to right:


  1. Me. On stage - presenting about presenting, and laughing at something the trainees said.

  2. A snap my friend caught of me a few years ago on a train, leaving the Edinburgh festival. I was knackered and full of thoughts from the weekend and thinking about work.

  3. I had my corporate headshots done last summer. Being impatient with a lighting change I starting pratting about and it got caught on film.

  4. Last Christmas. I was reading my son The Night Before Christmas for the first time and my husband walked in and took this picture.



In all of these situations, being at work, being tired, being impatient, and being a mum...


I'm being me. God's honest truth me.


However, that doesn't mean all of these Alex's are appropriate for all situations. By not showing my impatient side, my tired side or my mum side... doesn't mean I'm not being truthful. It's showing my best self, my honest self for the right situation that also gets the best out of other people.


How do you respond to people?


We all wear different hats. At home, with family, with friends, at work, with our peers, with clients or investors. We respond to those people in different ways, some to nurture, some we kowtow to, some to respond to as equal human beings.


This is called Transactional Analysis, which identifies that we talk to people in either Parent, Adult, or Child ego states.


Understanding how to respond to someone means you can help yourself get the very best out of a situation.


Being authentic means being genuine, but also means you can help others understand your message by helping your best qualities shine through.


Next time you give a first impression, think about your environment, and which truth you want to show them.


#authenticity #communicationskills #firstimpressions #presenting


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