Have a Real-Life Conversation

In my blog entry about making memorable presentations, I mentioned the word authentic. The noun version, authenticity, is something we pine for these days. Whether from our political leaders, bosses, colleagues and friends, authenticity, like reputation, is an important attribute to have. How we communicate in the workplace or in social settings is influenced by constant rings of email notifications or texts. There is a compulsion on both sides for rapid responses, which does not allow for the careful exchange of ideas or answers.

What else hath technology wrought? It has reduced the level of human interaction in the most simple of transactional situations. Go to a diner at the airport and use a touchscreen for breakfast. What you were served included runny eggs. Was there a screen option to indicate “non-runny” eggs? Well, I hope you’re not in a rush to catch your flight. Oh, and good luck getting another napkin. I guess that’s why they invented sleeves. Sigh.

Now think about communications and authenticity from a broader perspective. The real proving ground for authenticity has been the use of social media, especially when it comes to offering opinions under a clever nom de plume. Anonymity has given people freedom to write jeremiads they would not otherwise offer in a civilized gathering or a professional discussion forum.

Civil discourse has devolved. That’s a given. Will technology continue to promote anonymity? Will we completely morph into our cyber personalities?

In the Here and Now.
Being “in the moment”– in real life, not real time – will help you observe your behaviors and improve on them while you take a measure of others. There is so much to authenticity and it begins with self-awareness. Think about how you treat others and how you are treated. Experiment with the strengths and weaknesses of your human interaction, recalibrate your inner compass and get out of your comfort zone.

Try it the next time you are on an elevator or waiting on a line at Dunkin’ Donuts. Look up, look around and see the faces of a real world that you can influence or learn from, even if it is just one person. Try it if you are on a long plane flight. Strike up a conversation or extend a smile of shared early morning exhaustion. Show some empathy. Small talk is much more rewarding and long lasting than small-mindedness.

Like chicken soup, authenticity can’t hurt.