I’ve just had a glorious five days with my soul sister Emily in San Francisco. We worked with a mutual client, took a swim at Baker Beach, went to the museum, ate great food, and had countless conversations about human behavior, death, the Enneagram, and the books we want to write.
We were dishing about somebody and I said, “Can you stop trying to be so smart and just say something real?!” That cracked us up, and she said, “Write that down.” (That’s one of the things you do for your soul sisters—you help them hear themselves, and the wisdom that sometimes spills out.)
So what about this “being real” stuff? My friend and mentor Steve says, “You don’t have to right, you don’t have to be articulate, but you have to be real.” I probably repeat this once a day to myself or to clients.
What does it mean to choose “realness” over being right or articulate? These days, there can be a performative aspect to “real,” like the Instagram confessionals where people get into their trauma narratives or let it all hang out in ways that are actually harmful to those around them. That isn’t what I mean.
Being real is not sound bites. It’s not witty memes, it’s not a brand. It’s in service to relationship, awakening, and equity, not a strategy to get more followers.
It might sound like:
- I spaced out for a minute. Can you repeat what you just said?
- I’d like our relationship to be more reciprocal.
- I don’t really want to talk about that right now. Can we take a rain check?
- It would mean a lot to me if you could put your phone down while we’re talking.
- What just happened?
- Have we made a decision here?
- I don’t know exactly what I want to say about this yet, but it’s forming. Can we slow down?
- I feel uncomfortable about that joke we just made.
- I regret what I said a few minutes ago. Can I have a do-over?
- Can we be quiet for a while?
This is an art and a skill, and it has to do with letting things be in process—learning in public, showing our vulnerability, daring to ask or stand up for something even if we’re not sure exactly what it is yet. I’m pretty bad at this sometimes, but I’m getting better.
What would happen if we truly liberated ourselves from the expectation to be articulate? To be right? What would happen if we replaced these preoccupations with being real? I’ll stay tuned.
P.S. This is an important skill in our personal relationships, but it’s also incredibly powerful in the workplace. Done with humility and self-awareness, it will blow people away. Once the awkward moment passes (you can handle it!), it might even result in repaired relationships and better outcomes.