Alignment and authenticity

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time. I alluded to it in ‘Radical ideals and fluffy bunnies’ and in ‘Using dissent as a driver’ but not head-on. Here is a shoot that I hope will settle this matter for a while, for me at least, but I hope it also resonates with you (1).

In work, in any work that puts your personality on the line, and clearly in facilitation – where so much of your personality potentially affects the works – should we remain true to ourselves, or align with the wider agenda or other concerns?

You might think: “easy, just be yourself”. But the reality is more complicated, as we know we sometimes have to deal with another agenda – in facilitation that would be the bossy part of the BOSSY HERALD. We have to perform in different working cultures and we cannot be obsessed with doing things the way we like all the time. Or can we?

A practical example of this dilemma might be to respect hierarchy in e.g. a workshop. Will you challenge it or respect it? Tough call.

I absolutely don’t pretend to hold any truth here, just offering my views: On the alignment vs. authenticity spectrum, I place myself on the latter and try to bend towards the former. I start with being authentic with myself. The more I can be myself, the more I will be at ease and perform well, add humour (which is a great way to release tensions of this vein) and arguably the more I make others also comfortable because my behaviour does not display tensions.

Alignment or authenticity? Alignment with your authenticity it seems (Credits: PhotoBucket)

Alignment or authenticity? Alignment with your authenticity it seems (Credits: PhotoBucket)

In the process, I keep open to differences of views and practices and I have to remain astute to the specific issues where authenticity becomes awkward. Then I have to peddle back and adjust, (re-)align to reach out.

Perhaps the trick I have found here is to stretch authenticity as much as I can without upsetting anyone, following the proverbial French statement ‘Jusqu’où peut-on aller trop loin?‘ (until where can we get too far’)? In my philosophy, I’d rather let people be. A lot of respect, a bit of fun and you erase any risk of ‘your freedom infringing on mine’. So, alignment or authenticity? Judy Garland, among many others, reminds us:

“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”

I’ve made up my mind. And there are two interesting parallels here:

  • One is with our work-life personalities: how much of yourself, of your real personality do you reveal at work? How much connection between these two poles of your life can you cope with (particularly if you are not self-employed)? I have found that being myself at work makes it all the more enjoyable, so while I try and preserve my personal and family life from too much travelling and over-work, I tend to not act so differently at the office or at home. I’ve found that in any occasion, thinking, feeling, talking and acting in the same perspective makes me happier and grounds me much more than entertaining split personaliities. But everyone has their own coping mechanisms…
  • The other is with intercultural communications: how much do you adapt to a culture and remain true to yours? This is a tricky one. Yet again, perhaps openness and humour are the best weapons against the tricks and traps of intercultural communication. I personally feel that since I cannot become someone with a totally different culture overnight, I’d rather stick to who I am, with all my sub-cultural backgrounds. I definitely try to understand, and I remain open to other cultures, but will not pretend I am someone else – while recognising that I am in a dynamic process of change where my culture(s) will be affected too.

How do YOU cope with alignment and authenticity?


(1) Funny enough, someone just wrote another post a few days back, titled ‘alignment and authenticity’ – serendipity, that’s another topic worth blogging about…

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