I keep thinking back to my conversation a couple of months ago with my long-time mentor and friend – the one who inspired the original post, Trust & Intentions.
The words lingering in my mind long past their prime, I have continued to reflect on his central questions, “How do you know who and what you can trust; how do you know when people are really being open with you?” In doing so, my thoughts have shifted from literal answers to the broader issue of transparency in the context of trust.
I am transparent.
Completely. Fully. Perhaps annoyingly so. At times, provocatively so.
Increasingly, I really do say what I mean and mean what I say. Having largely shed the once constant need for external approval (and with it the chamaleon-like behavior), I am rebelliously transparent, my commitment to my own personal integrity and authenticity running at an all-time high. Remember my reference to playing ‘the (corporate) game’ in my earlier post, Square Pegs and Round Holes? I don’t play it, both because I’m not good at it and because I choose not to.
In that space of transparency, I am also trusting. Sometimes too much so. I trust others because I am trustworthy myself. That’s an important point, because authentic transparency requires an intense and on-going commitment to integrity, of self and others. I have also assumed this risk of vulnerable transparency, because the reward of genuine connection, when it happens, far and away exceeds the risk of being hurt. Still, I’ve been warned, “Be careful, Sharon. Not everything is as it seems. ”
Not everything is as it seems.
People have agendas, often hidden, sometimes deceptive, and occasionally downright rotten. I know. I’ve met them. And I’m pretty sure you have, too.
Master manipulators, whether in thought, word or deed, these same people often operate from a place of fear. Relentless fear. Suffocating, life-sucking, energy-draining fear. If you’ve ever studied fear, you know that it multiplies rapidly. It eats flesh. It stifles our thoughts. It breaks our hearts.
Having once fearfully defined my life and worth by those things, people, and accomplishments external to myself, I gave up fear when I embarked on this journey within. It’s not that I’m impervious to fear. I’m not. But in making the shift, I have learned to meet fear head on instead of running away, and in doing so, the same fear that once engulfed me has begun to loosen its vice-like grip. Increasingly, fear has given way to love, and love has paved the way to authentic transparency.
I’ve been testing my theories lately, taking immense risks both personally and professionally, to be fully and completely transparent. Living and leading from the heart; exchanging fear for an unwavering commitment to my values and dreams. Whatever notions I once had of ‘playing it safe’, I’ve thrown out the window. This is my life after all, and I’m tired of playing a defensive game. It’s all the chips in, win or lose.
So, for those of you who are curious, here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. Transparency is risky, it’s true. When we extend ourselves from the heart, fully and openly, we risk others’ rejection. We risk their condemnation. We risk their manipulation. We risk loss. All pretty scary stuff, I admit.
2. When we lead and love from a transparent and authentic place, we risk misinterpretation of our intentions, too. There are those jaded souls and/or seasoned sharks swimming around in this world who do not recognize or trust transparency when they actually encounter it, and as a result, will attempt to sabotage you at every turn. Sadly, there are also those so hungry for love and connection that they mistake transparency for instant emotional intimacy. You know the kind…the “I thought there was something special between us (even though I only met you five minutes ago)?” If there is indeed a mutual connection, great! Wonderful, actually. But when it’s a case of one-sided misinterpretation, the leech-like behavior is usually about fear and control.
3. You can’t always control the outcome or other people’s intentions, it’s true (but it takes far more energy to conceal than to reveal).
Not very encouraging, is it? But read on…
1. When we fully love and respect ourselves first; when we are aligned and committed to our core values, the potential for rejection or misalignment does not have to be our undoing. This is not only true in our personal relationships, but in our professional lives, too. If the shoe doesn’t fit, it’s not the end of the world…you can decide to continue to walk around with painful blisters, or you can choose to find a new pair to try on for size. The choice is yours alone to make.
2. When combined with a strong core, a heady dose of courage, and firmly aligned values, there is not only tremendous power in transparency, but the propensity for hurt I’ve been cautioned about has actually decreased as transparency has increased, not the other way around.
3. As transparency increases, so too, does respect. People may not agree with every decision you make, but when you live and lead from within, as Lolly Daskal would say, people’s respect for you increases 1,000-fold. An added bonus? Your self-respect blossoms, too.
3. Transparency paves the way for authentic connection with others. Isn’t that really what life’s about, anyway?
4. Sometimes, if the conditions are right; if we’re willing to embrace the risks to fully walk our talk, transparency might just plant a seed for positive and lasting change in others, too; and that, my friend, is what real leadership is all about.
How to you live, lead and connect with others? Do you operate from a place of open transparency, or have you mastered the art of concealed agenda? Have you found a healthy balance between the two? What price(s) have you paid for risking transparency? What reward(s) have you gained from being authentic? At your core, do you live and lead from a place of fear, or from a place of love?