A Lesson from Trump: Is Transparency the Same as Authenticity?
We all have experienced being manipulated, “handled”, or given the “party line” in our work or personal lives at one point or another.
Sugarcoating messages, putting a “spin” on communication to influence others, or saying things that people want to hear in order to persuade them to a certain point of view is unfortunately commonplace in our world of work, relationships, and government.
There are even volumes of books written that tell you how to get people to do what you want them to do, and even more classes you can take on the topic.
When we receive this “handling” and mixed messages from our leaders (or in our relationships, for that matter), we feel distrustful.
“I hear what you’re saying but I’m not sure I believe you” becomes the unspoken and underlying sentiment we feel.
Authentic communication is no-where to be found.
So when someone like Donald Trump comes along who is a straight-talker and speaks what is on his mind—some of us are secretly amused or relieved in a strange way.
The “what you see is what you get” manner and the fact that we can see through his motives whether we like them or not can feel refreshing to some.
He is transparent—good, bad, or ugly.
I don’t get into politics or religion in my posts, but I have to bring up Donald Trump in this one as he serves as a perfect example of the authenticity/trust dilemma. Love him or hate him, my point is not to evaluate or judge Donald Trump here.
Regardless of what you or I think of him, what I do want to point to is the trait that some people are responding positively to—his transparency.
Here’s the rub though. Transparency doesn’t translate to authentic communication.
Transparency alone doesn’t cut it.
Transparency and saying whatever you think doesn’t make you empathetic, trustworthy, or able to relate to others.
To evoke trust and authentic communication, there are three things we must genuinely convey to others. In my book “The Cure: Remedies for the 5 Ailments that Plague Organizations”, I call them the three “T”’s of authentic interaction:
- Transparency: Your actions, words, and intentions are open, communicated, and in alignment without hidden agendas.
- Tact: You choose your words empathetically to take account of and show genuine understanding of the feelings of others and the potential impact of your words on them.
- Touch: You genuinely care about the feelings, perspectives, and reactions of others and spend time acknowledging your understanding of them. You connect with people at a deeper level, listen intently, and visibly show empathy, compassion, and concern. You seek to understand rather than judge.
When these three “T”’s are present, authentic communication is able to take place.
The interaction is not all about you, but is coming from a deeper place of genuine human connection.
What we learn from Trump is that transparency alone is not authentic communication.
Transparency is indeed an important element, but transparency coming from a place of ego can also be bullying—and not at all authentic human connection.
Think about your own ability to connect authentically with people from a deeper place, beyond your ego and self-interest. Are all three of the elements I mention part of your interactions?
As always—I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts. Drop me a note with your reactions and experiences.
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