When most people hear the term ‘communicate’ they picture themselves sharing an idea with another person. But an assumption already exists in this picture, that the primary purpose of communication is to share my ideas for others to understand me. This assumption instantly changes the dynamics of any communication from building a relationship to executing a task.
The word communicate is rooted in a word rarely used today: to commune. Commune is defined as, “to connect with another person.” This exchange rests not on a project, idea, or purpose, but on connecting. Connecting to another person requires intimacy, vulnerability, and authenticity. These words are catchphrases in today’s age, but we often lack the gravity behind them.
Ponder with me for a moment. How do you connect with a close friend, spouse, or family member? Many people might answer by being honest, forthright, and letting their personality coming out unashamedly. This is what I refer to as one’s true self. This is the self that shows up when you are comfortable and safe. This version of self is amazing! When we allow our true self to shine, we do not let other’s expectations of us overpower our natural instinct. Our true self approaches everything uniquely, creatively, and with a fresh perspective. Think of sitting around a fire with a group of close friends. You don’t your filter thoughts or opinions, but share them, not worried how others will see you. This is beautiful.
Now, think about how you arrive to work. You likely are overly aware of your actions and words, fearful of how others may perceive you. You become a remnant of yourself, squashing the true self with everything it brings. How can one communewith others while squashing yourself? The truth is, you cannot.
The forgotten foundation of communication, communing with others, requires you to bring your true self to work – the person you are comfortable being without any preconceived notions or pressures. This means being vulnerable, showing who you are to others. What happens when you take a step of vulnerability? Often others take a step of vulnerability in response, inspired and refreshed by your courageous act. Expectations, oughts, shoulds, and social pressures fade away, allowing two individuals to commune, to connect with one another at an authentic level.
Think of a leader you admire. Do they promote an image of perfection, always making the right decisions and never making mistakes? Or do they show their humanity, their true self, warts and all? Do they dream big, throwing out brilliant ideas alongside terrible ones? Something happens when we see someone else as a fallible human: it puts us at ease. I don’t know about you, but I don’t relate to someone portraying perfection. Yet I do relate to the person who makes mistakes and tries new things, sometimes succeeding and other times learning valuable lessons.
You may be asking, “How does this relate to communication?” If communication is rooted in connecting to another, it’s about seeing the other person as a shared interaction, not pushing your agenda. It’s about being your true self and allowing another person to know who you are, how you connect with others, how you understand ideas, and asking them to meet you there. This can only be done when we are authentic to ourselves and to others.
When I decided to be my true self at all times, something amazing happened. I cared less about how others saw me and I focused on my opinion of my life and decisions. Others began to pick up on my comfort, which put them at ease, encouraging them to be their true selves. Creative ideas started blooming in my mind, and I began having powerfully visionary conversations with others. I admitted my mistakes and the lessons I learned through them. I become a person with which someone could easily connect and communicate.
Are you ready to resurrect this forgotten foundation of communication? To live out your true self to connect with others? The first step takes bravery and courage, then each step after gets easier, until you cannot imagine living and connecting any other way.