Patty, as the office manager, was tasked with giving feedback to those that were performing poorly. Amber, who had started missing deadlines, been on the phone a lot, and had been coming in late for work, was identified as someone who Patty had decided she needed to talk to.
Patty had reflected on how she would begin talking with this person. She really liked Amber, and she knew that when she was hired in the beginning, she would always keep her performance commitments. Patty was curious about what had changed.
Patty began by asking a question, “How are things going for you?”
Amber responded with, “Life is terrible right now.”
“How so?” Patty asked.
“Well, my parents kicked me out of the house. My boyfriend dumped me. I barely have enough money for rent.”
Patty didn’t say a thing and continued to listen. Amber continued, “I know that I am not performing well right now. I’ve been trying, but I am just so distracted by my life that my full attention has not been on work.”
Before Patty could say anything, Amber continued, “Thanks for listening to me. I have loved working here. In fact, I have learned that I really want to have a career in the medical field. Thanks for always being so kind.”
Patty was stunned that Amber so readily admitted her short comings. Together they made an improvement plan for Amber to follow.
Often when we are confronted with holding a difficult conversation, we begin that conversation in an aggressive, adversarial position rather than being open and letting our curiosity drive the flow of the conversation.
Granted, I believe many are intimidated with the prospect of delivering negative feedback and almost anticipating a negative emotional reaction.
I have often wondered how frequently our negative assumptions about the situation and the person actually end up creating the very results we want to avoid.
Patty’s objective curiosity and authenticity helped her to hold this conversation with an effective outcome.
Here are six-character traits you might want to develop that will add to your authenticity capacity.
1. Absolute honesty. This doesn’t mean that you will reveal things to others that the law forbids you from sharing with others. But it does mean that you tell the truth when asked for it. You will not shy away from giving your honest assessment when asked for it along with examples that will help people understand the impact or consequences of their behavior.
2. Unwavering responsibility. It is so easy for us to shift the blame for the results that we create to others or the situation that we find ourselves in. If you don’t like the results that you receive or if your expectations are violated or not met, look at yourself first and assess how your own actions, directions, or communications created the results that you received. Whatever the outcome, you are responsible, at least in part, for what you received.
3. Sincere humility. I have often had people ask me, “How does one develop humility?” You must be the first to admit that you may not know everything, that you may not be right, that someone has had an experience or perspective that you may not have. I remember someone telling me at the beginning of my career to remember that “You’re not all that!” Simply put, there is an opportunity for everyone to know more, do more, and be more. Recognizing one’s shortcomings is a great place to begin to increase our personal humility.
4. Vulnerable openness. It takes courage to share what we are really thinking and feeling with anyone. Our ability to trust others will lead us to allow ourselves to be vulnerable with them. Trust takes time to develop and a deliberate attempt to come to know and understand others. We can do this by asking questions, listening to one another, and sharing with one another.
5. Heartfelt gratitude. We often become so busy that we don’t slow down and take the time to notice and appreciate all the good things that encompass our lives. Even when times are challenging, those challenges can lead us to develop and grow in ways that will bring us greater joy. One of the easiest ways to connect with other people is to recognize the value that they bring and to express our heartfelt gratitude to them. Your gratitude will permeate your interactions with others as well as enhance your authenticity with those around you.
6.Focused attention. Likewise, it is easy for us to become distracted by what seems to preoccupy our thinking. Learning to quiet the voices in our minds and to be fully present with another person helps to create an authentic presence with another. That presence will greatly contribute to the presence of authenticity in the moment.
Authenticity is not an easy component of conversation to develop. As a personal trait, it speaks more of who you are. Taking some time to self-evaluate in the realms of honesty, responsibility, humility, openness, gratitude, and attention should provide you with ample opportunity to work on those traits that will great contribute to the authenticity with which you approach and interact with others.
To learn more about holding REAL Conversations, join for my next Masterclass on September 6th at 1:00 p.m. EDT on "REAL Talk: Talk about Anything, with Anyone at Anytime." Go here to check it out.