Monday, July 13, 2009

Let's be authentic, you go first

This weekend we have a friend staying with us who in the process of creating a new business. While Mark was off doing whatever he does, I was talking with our friend about his plans.

As he told me his story, I was thinking to myself, "this isn't a plan", "he absolutely hasn't thought this through". I was thinking this, but... well, I wasn't actually saying it (out loud).

At dinner tonight, I told Mark about our conversation and my lack of authenticity with our friend. I wanted to explore why I chose this path. I'm not sure about the exact order, but I think it went something like this...

I told Mark that I was judging our friend in regard to his business plans.

Mark asked me what I meant by that and I said, "Well, first, he hasn't really thought it through and second, he doesn't seem to have a plan."

Mark said, "That sounds like an assessment, not a judgment."

As I thought about that, I agreed. Not having a plan and not having thought through things is just an assessment. Still, I felt that I was judging; I realized that I was judging myself.

Mark asked me, "What are you judging about yourself?"

The answer had two parts. First, I was judging myself for being negative about our friend's plan. I didn't think he had much of a plan, but I didn't want to be unsupportive of him.

Second, I was judging myself for not telling him what I thought. I was being totally inauthentic with him.

While telling this to Mark, Mark gave me the example: let's say that our friend was standing on the top of a building with his arms outstretched, ready to jump off and fly. Would you consider it unsupportive to stop him or at least point out that he might not have thought it through?

I had to laugh at this. So then, the question remained, why wouldn't I just tell our friend that I didn't think much of his plan?

The answer came to me in a flash! Knowing that he's here to meet with Mark to talk about his business plan and knowing that Mark will tell him what he thinks regardless of whether it's good or not, why should I spend my time on telling him that his plan sucks?

At that point, Mark suggested the concept of, "why be authentic, when you can get someone else to do it for you?" He also said that I might have potential as an executive in a business, a key component being the ability to delegate the "dirty" work to others.

I had to laugh. But still, the words had some merit.

So, the question is: why be authentic in uncomfortable situations, when you know that someone else will take care of it? Why clean the dishes, when you have a dishwasher?


  1. Hmmm, interesting question. In the way it is worded (esp. with the dishwashing analogy), I detect an implicit assumption within - that there is something unclean or uncomfortable about being authentic, at least as described in this situation. How so? Probably the fear of a negative reaction from your friend with the plan, or maybe the judgment about being negative about his plans in the first place. It's possible there was a judgment about the plan itself; I'm guessing from the usage of "the plan sucks".

    It's amazing how many little judgments hide in our language and our outlook once we really look.

    Nevertheless, to answer the question literally (assuming that the 'why' in "why clean the dishes?" is a real question, not just hiding an opinion): I guess there is value in being authentic, not just for the other person who now receives feedback that is more useful and relevant to his situation, but also to me, in the experience of making my friendship deeper by communicating from my heart and contributing to my friend. At first, it might appear that I saved some emotional energy by opting to leave the 'dirty work' to somebody else, but in the long run, it would make for an easier (& deeper) relationship with this person.

    Wonderful inquiry. With a great online community/forum like this, I think I'm already in my own tropical paradise (like Tracee is seeking) :-).

  2. First post above written by Sree

  3. Wow, this is so amazing and useful to read! This is Brian, by the way, and I'm "the friend"! So here's a really cool thought I had when reading this: watch how judging (either me or herself) made the conversation LESS USEFUL to the person with the sucky business plan!!! Instead of jumping in and asking me questions or sharing thoughts, like the Iris I know usually does, she just let the moment go. For me, knowing that I've never started a business before and EVERY question or thought is a useful one--even judgmental ones--because I will either have an answer for it, or it will show me a hole that I can then design the plan to close...both have great outcomes!!! So I very much look forward to this renewed conversation when I can find out the specifics of how really awful my plan is! It will give me key insights into what I will want to improve on. Love, hugs, and gratitude...Brian (Also, you now have express permission to use my ACTUAL name in all future blog postings!)

  4. Hello Sree and Brian,

    Thanks for your comments by email that I posted here with the blog.

    Brian and I talked after posting of this blog. This whole situation is such a wonderful example of what happens when we judge. I was judging what I was hearing (which was just a couple of words about starting a business plan that didn't compile with what I had heard from Mark). Instead of asking questions and connecting, I judged and in that way withdraw myself from the conversation. Looking back now, I realize that I also judged Brian for being non-consistent in his stories to me and Mark. In the moment, I could have taken immediate action by telling him this, so we could clarify and connect. I hope that this example will help people to see which moments they withdraw from conversations, and to help them take ownership next time about their thoughts and feelings and connect by expressing themselves.


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