I struggle with inauthentic (aka “fake”) behavior; it bothers me so much because of how it affects our personal and professional relationships, and our mental well-being. When we interact with others, we can actually feel the disconnect when we are being authentic, and they choose not to be. That feeling we get often also helps us quickly decide whether a new acquaintance has a shot at becoming a true friend or trusted business partner in the future.
As I thought about a recent relationship issue, my initial thoughts made me feel uneasy, a little disappointed, and somewhat misunderstood. The longer I thought about it, the more I realized that my quirk with the situation boils down to my need and expectation that authenticity be reciprocated in all my relationships. It has to be a two-way street.
If you’re inclined to read further, I want to share five actions I take to lead myself in relationships - because I can only control me. Where you agree, feel free to replace the personal pronouns to make these actions work for you too:
#1 – Choose to not allow anyone or any situation to live rent-free in my head. Ann Landers, a former advice columnist, first coined the phrase “live rent-free in your head”. It’s easier said than done, I know, but for me this action involves initially praying for relief from worry, candidly assessing my role in the situation or issue, and attempting to have a transparent conversation with the person(s) involved. If I don’t take this action early enough, I could literally lose hours of peace (and sleep) unnecessarily.
#2 - Evaluate my relationship expectations. It is entirely possible that my expectations for various relationships are too lofty, unrealistic, or not mutually held or desired. Superficial conversations, unkept promises, and lackluster efforts towards spending quality time together are all indicators that we do not share the same level of commitment to the relationship.
#3 - Identify the priority the person holds in my life. I am a firm believer that we should never de-value or subjugate anyone. Period. This statement reminds me of a Biblical parable in which the host seated a rich person in a prominent space at an event while relegating a poor man to a space in the back of the room. Using their outward appearances as a superficial filter, the host decided that the rich man was most important and, therefore, should have priority seating.
Appearances aside, I prioritize relationships with those who mean the most to me – always God first, followed by people in my personal circles, and those who share my same faith. People in my personal circles include immediate and close family members, and those really great friends who have been with me through thick and thin. Setting relationship priorities does not mean I will not respect and have loving concern for everyone; it just regulates how much personal energy I will expend when conflicts arise.
#4 - Remember what I have learned from experience. I enter new friendships today differently than I did when I was a young adult. I have learned to distinguish between those who are with me for a reason or for a season. I invest in relationships that continue to thrive – even when we are separated by geography. Many of my great friends are those who I might not talk with every week or even every month. However, when we do connect our conversations are fun, energetic, meaningful, and empathetic. Iron sharpening iron.
#5 - Be prepared to move on. When I have expressed myself authentically, to include acknowledging and/or accepting my role in any misunderstandings, I have to move on should the other person(s) involved continue to behave inauthentically. “Moving on” never excuses me from being courteous, sincere, and kind; it simply provides closure about the reality of any given relationship and frees me from mental entanglements that weigh me down (or try to live rent-free in my head).
Well, that wraps up the five actions I take to prioritize authentic relationships. If you’ve never considered your own approach now is a great time to think about it. Like I said before, feel free to borrow some or all of my actions if that helps.
Until next time…keep leading yourself!