|Consumers and clients are increasingly requiring authenticity in the products, services, and utterances
they get from organizations. Employees are also looking for authenticity from their leaders, as are
recruits from their prospective employers, purchasers from those trying to sell to them, salesmen
interested in the needs of their prospects, investors dependent on the people who direct or lead the
organizations in which they invest, bosses from their employees, and people of all kinds wanting
dependable alliances. And authenticity exchanged amongst colleagues, friends, and family members is
also, of course, always a preferred experience. What then is authenticity? There's no simple answer for
authenticity means different things to different people. Following, however, are some reflections on the
elements of meaning evoked by the word 'authenticity'. I hope they will stimulate further understanding
of an issue in which realization of satisfying and productive relationships of all kinds is increasingly at
Both the adjective "authentic" -- from which the word "authenticity" is derived -- and the noun "author"
begin with the same sound, namely that of the word "awe". Should we conclude from this that
authenticity is a quality of energy reminiscent of what we feel when we experience some person, event,
thing, or idea as awesome? When we refer to someone as the author of a document, or sometimes as
the author of a deed, we are recognizing as present in them the power to initiate or originate -- whether
we consider that power to have been used admirably, legitimately, or disgracefully. We also speak of an
authority requiring authentication of an identity before the authority will be ready to issue, for example, a
driver's licence, a passport, a franchise, a mandate, or a certificate.
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How, then, can someone gain appreciation from others for, or at least recognition of, his or her own authenticity? The answer for
me is that a scrupulously and consistently accurate person will eventually be perceived as authentic, but not always or initially in
the degree to which he or she will be satisfied. Indeed, only the most beautiful of us can expect to enjoy much of the satisfaction
of being accepted as behaving authentically; but one certainly increases one's chances of such recognition if one gives care to
assessing the assumptions one has ascertained are held by one's colleagues or audience concerning one's expected social role
and values and also to being accurate in describing one’s own unfolding experience. One appears at one's most authentic when
one seeks – consciously (but not so consciously as to be considered freakish) – to give expression to one's own vision,
ideation, or narration in terms credible to one's companions or audience. In the case of a true visionary this requires not only
insight but also extreme courage. "Screwing one's courage up" will not, however, be successful for long, for such expressions will
eventually be sensed as bravado -- either unreal or false or else meaningless, tasteless, impractical, immoral, or even disgraceful --
by even modestly skeptical others.
Authenticity may also be conceived as the congruence of one's 'I concept' with one's behaviour. Verbal integrity starts growing
when we first try using the word 'I' and continues to appear to grow if we draw validation from those around us. In my practice I
often sense a need to make distinctions between the meanings of words that refer to concepts out of which the current interest in
the idea of authenticity seems to me to have emerged:
A valid expression is one whose logic is recognized as consistent with the implicit value system of those who consider it
valid. Example: “His application for sick pay is not valid”. Pronouncements of validity or otherwise typically come from someone
having an officially sanctioned power to announce the verdict of his or her organizational mandate in regard to another’s request
or application. Implicit in use of the words “valid or invalid” is the existence of a value system taken to be unimpeachable by both
parties in a relationship in which such words are properly used. The party not having power in a relationship can, however,
sometimes feel violated by what s/he believes to be a serious lack of either reasonability or rationality in the value system to which
the party having power expects conformity, in which case a serious dispute/conflict is in the offing.
A logical expression is a representation of an idea in words that, sounding OK, evoke in another little need to assess their
truth with any degree of rigour or profundity. Example: "Time is money". A logical statement is rarely challenged, but when it
is, someone has recognized that, if it were taken as entirely reliable truth, it would become misleading. In the example, although
time is not exactly money, the two are closely related in circumstances in which the nature of the relationship between time and
money is both precisely known and paramount. Although many will agree with a logical statement, its lack of intrinsic coherence in
some (usually unforeseen) circumstances can seriously mislead people, especially the members of one's immediate affinity group,
who habitually accept a logical statement without question. Moreover, many logical statements are clichés, i.e. thunk thoughts
unlikely to have much specific relevance to present circumstances (although they do have a superficial connection), and so they will
introduce very little insight to the conversation. Charmingly charismatic politicians (like former British PM Tony Blair or former US
President Bush) have frequently used simplistic logic to portray scenarios in which the courses of action they prefer, for whatever
reason(s), seem, amongst their fans, to be the "right thing to do".
A reasonable expression is a representation of an idea in words that someone else who is in the habit of questioning finds
"right enough", i.e. in no way offensive. Example: "A shock and awe invasion of Iraq will cow the Baathists into accepting
it". This might have seemed a reasonable assertion to those used to winning by dogged insistence. But actions based more or
less on that so-called reasonable assertion triggered, in actuality, severe covert resistance to the point of a majority of observers
commenting that the US had got itself into a "Vietnamesque quagmire". Reasonable statements articulated to groups a little larger
than one's natural affinity group add educational value; but, to be accepted as reasonable, care is required to eliminate from them
implicit assumptions (i.e. presumptions) likely to offend or evoke contempt.
A rational expression is one representing an idea whose truth someone has tested profoundly. Example: "A rational
statement is likely to meet with 'flak' both from ideologically rigid and from thoughtless people, to both of whom a rational
statement is unlikely to appear either logical or reasonable". Rational statements, while having value precious to humanity at
large, are best kept limited in exposure to audiences to whom raw truth is considered to be more vital than "psychologically
smoothed sooth". Rational statements require the investigative diligence of expert and scrupulously honest researchers and
detectives. Their successful communication will typically require heroic commitment unless addressed to people who believe they
are on what change-leadership author Daryl Conner refers to as "a burning platform", i.e. in must-grow/change-to-survive
Following is a table summarizing these distinctions:
|Services to Leaders
Coaching Essay: Authenticity
|Authenticity: A Learning Approach
(c) 2007-15 by
Principal, Authentix Coaches
You won't find much of this in a dictionary or encyclopedia. Dictionaries and encyclopedias do reflect common usage, but
our purposes, if they are both authentic and ethically well-considered, are, I submit, to convey, and hopefully to gain
receipt of, a clear and, hopefully vitalizing, message -- or at least some thoughtful feedback. For this we must keep to a
single meaning for each word within the confines of a particular conversation, and we also must have clarity in the
distinctions we and our audience make between the meanings of the significant words we use. Moreover, although the
range of messages needing to be conveyed is usually much more philosophical outside of an emergency than within one,
such clarity is always preferable to mere brevity. Keeping this in mind helps one select, just as revered authors do,
precisely the word that conveys exactly the message one intends to convey.
This learning approach to working with the idea of authenticity has a consequence for the practice of empathy because the
idea of personal change may, paradoxically, be a socially morbid one. In our work to facilitate the growth of individuals and
teams, Authentix coaches often observe the release of enormous amounts of energy that have been suppressed by belief
in professional diagnoses or brusquely insensitive, if also frank, judgments. For example, have you noticed that psychiatrists
feel obliged to make diagnoses -- perhaps because that is how they get paid -- and that families not infrequently misuse
diagnoses by presuming the member who has had a psychiatric diagnosis must be the one who is "wrong" or "the problem"?
So, while a diagnosis may appear to be the authentic truth of an expert, it cannot be a healing factor unless the diagnoser
takes the time to summon the empathy to explain, non-judgmentally, its ramifications to all the people significantly in
relationship with the diagnosee:
Empathy: The discipline/capacity of being actively present to hear the needs, wants and aims of others affected
by one's behaviour (action or speech), and of anticipating accurately the sensitivities likely to be excited by one’s
inclinations to share (or hide) potentially painful or frightening possibilities with (or from) others.
Diagnosees are not machines to be changed. Both diagnoser and diagnosee are human beings who automatically grow
because we are all alive and life always grows until it ends -- although perhaps not as fast as some may desire. That
seems to me to be the rational conclusion of Erich Fromm's thinking in his classic 1942 book "Escape from Freedom".
Authentix Coaches is only advocating a small word difference -- from "change" to "growth", but the effect of doing so is to
add empathy to authenticity, and thus a vitalizing and more honest balance to any professional orthodoxy. At the level of a
society, the effect of an individual combining empathy with authenticity may one day be to make social hierarchies much
more flexible, displays of fuller authenticity safer for all, and thus vital learning faster for everyone.
Eye-Zen English is a set of linguistic principles proven by Authentix Coaches to facilitate the development of trust and
thence insight, accurate exchange, and cooperation through safe, empathic, and authentic verbal expression. An overview
of Eye-Zen English is available at the following link. An account of a coaching engagement that illustrates the high return
on investment in practising IHXENs in an enterprise survival situation is available at this one.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 071203-141223
Excerpted from "Problem-Solving Conversation! Clues to making your best efforts in honesty, authenticity, and ultimately
accuracy serve everyone -- not excluding you!", unpublished manuscript.
Want a break?
This video does wonders for me. When you get the new screen, wait a bit for the video to start.
You can listen to it while reading on, or just get up and move to the Azorcan beat!
These ideas help me distinguish a meaning for the word 'authenticity' when a conversation seems to be conflating its
meaning with those of either 'frankness' or 'self-expression'. Authenticity is then the quality by which one senses that some
object is characteristically original or that some description is so intimately (and therefore hopefully accurately) drawn from
a certain person's experience that it can be relied upon or that some behaviour or event is especially true to what one
believes is the character of the person or people involved. In other words, if I consider an act to be so original, or a
statement to be so much more true or aptly just than any principle of moral rectitude or science or ethical depth of which I
have hitherto been aware, then I will feel a touch at least of awe. If I, as an observer, feel that the presenter of an object
or idea or the issuer of a work of writing or speech or of some other work of art or science exhibits such an unusual degree
of honesty, sincerity, thorough-going insight and/or sheer beauty or objectivity, then, regardless of what others may think,
I feel virtually compelled to conclude I have witnessed a reporting of an act that I have little or no alternative to concluding
must be true.
But what about my own authenticity as an articulator? Need I have concern about that? For a period of my life, I had no
doubts about my own authenticity. But, assaulted in the school of hard knocks in which simplicity-demanding bullies use
demagoguery to control social outcomes, I began to notice, in reflections after the event, that I was not expressing myself
with as much authenticity as I wanted recognized by others. Until then unaware of this in the moment of expression, I
became perplexed as to why people were not trusting me as much as I felt justified in expecting. It was toward the end of
that period of perplexity that I began calling my firm by the name Authentix Coaches. By then, the word 'authenticity' was
signifying for me a quality of energy that either induces me to respect its author extraordinarily or that I want/need to
manifest in a narrative of my experience or in a presentation of a proposal to which I feel long-founded commitment. But
how any particular person assesses what s/he observes as authentic or not is, I believe, mostly a matter of whether what
s/he perceives is affirming what s/he already believes or wants to believe. The desire for simplicity is a strong one in most
humans. Acquiring true insight into "what is" requires much thinking (and reflection and research) energy.
|"Real identity has been shown again and again to be a very effective way of maintaining a high level
of conversation without moderation. We think that it is both fair and reasonable to ask our
verified commenters to post under their real names in return for the privilege of posting
directly to the site."
-- New York Times qualification process for 'Verified Commenters'.
"Authenticity may be defined as the degree of expression of what one has
experienced and learned that others with whom one is in communication
find relevant to the issue then in discussion."
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with the help of supportive 'mavens', i.e. following Malcolm
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