Assumptions and Authenticity

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I talk with my hands. For those of you who know me, you know it’s nearly impossible for me to talk without using my hands. It feels awkward and uncomfortable and unfortunately I experienced this fully during a recent video shoot for my new book (Letting Go Of The Status Quo).  My co-author and I were shooting a video book trailer and our PR team was conducting the video shoot.  As you might expect, they were extremely detail-oriented about everything from the placement of objects around us to the lighting on our faces to how straight we were sitting and the angle and stillness of our heads.  My co-author Julie had her video sections shot first so, after observing her, I assumed I knew what I needed to do.  I assumed I had to sit extremely straight, not move my head or any other part of my body while I spoke to the camera.

For someone who has trouble speaking without moving her hands, this felt incredibly awkward.  Yet, I successfully shot my portions with my hands folded in my lap keeping myself as still as possible.  About 2/3 of the way through shooting my portions, I said something to the team about how uncomfortable it was for me to speak on things I am so passionate about without moving my hands.  The response I received was, “Oh, Andria – you can move your hands as much as you want. We are just shooting you from the neck up so no one can even see your hands”.   What…?  I thought to myself, I wish I knew that when we started!  I could have saved myself a lot of discomfort and not felt so awkward and uncomfortable for so long!

How often do we do this in our careers, leadership roles, or even other roles in our lives?  We assume we know what is expected of us and, without question, we force ourselves to do things that are uncomfortable or inauthentic because we think that’s what’s required.  We assume we can’t work a flexible schedule because no one else on the team works a flexible schedule so we do heroic (and sometimes awkward) things to try to beat traffic and/or attempt to get home before our kids get home from school instead of simply asking whether flexing our schedule is possible.  Or, we assume we can’t conduct our team meetings outside because everyone else has their meetings in conference rooms.  So, we conform and stifle our desire to create a different environment for our work group -one that is authentic to who we are – because we assume we can’t be our true selves in that particular environment.  Just like when I assumed I had to conform and behave in a certain way in front of the video camera, these types of assumptions often create (sometimes unnecessary) discomfort for us.

When I finally expressed my discomfort during the video shoot, the message I received loud and clear was “ Incorrect assumption! Be yourself! It’ll feel and look much better that way”.  So, the next time you assume you know how you’re supposed to behave or what the requirements are in a particular situation, stop yourself from assuming and instead, just ask, or better yet – just go with what feels most authentic to you

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