Authenticity. It’s a great concept. For me, it’s being able to bring my real self (all aspects of my personality) to work, a party, and life in general.
I’ve joined a few networking groups that are strong advocates of authenticity and are the backbone of why the groups exist. I’ve met some great people within them. Of course, I’ve met others outside these groups that are about being authentic, too. Sometimes they are harder to spot though.
Over the past years I have had a few weird experiences while being my authentic self in professional networking scenarios. In calling attention to them, I hope to create awareness and hopefully a new kind of authenticity.
Have you ever been in a situation where a colleague/acquaintance agreed to help you out with one of your fledgling ideas/businesses? This interaction was short-term and it turned into a barter exchange that was quickly fulfilled. Since then, you’ve learned what you want and don’t want to do with this business idea. You didn’t feel the need to check in with the colleague/acquaintance who helped, as they didn’t express interest. A year later, when asked about it, you said you weren’t sure you wanted to pursue that route anymore, though you did appreciate their help. Shortly after, this person soon cut ties with you on Facebook/LinkedIn, etc.
This has happened to me in a few different ways over a decade after I told a few people I was switching tactics/interests, etc. I was being real. I wasn’t clinging to an idea that didn’t hold my interest for the sake of stick-to-itness. In the name of authenticity, I get it if a person no longer identifies with my plan, or purpose and vice versa. As humans, and if you’re an entrepreneur – a dynamic one, you are likely evolving regularly. Shouldn’t those who’ve changed their game plan be allowed the same option for authenticity as those who authentically step down from supporting us? We should be allowed to change our goals and or, change our minds without losing respect.
So, do these authentic networking groups offer space for this? Yes, at least the ones I frequent do.
It would make sense that bringing our true selves to these groups mean connecting and then, reconnecting if we no longer identify when a colleague switches direction. I think there is a peaceable, authentic way to show support of someone when they do, without ditching the relationship and or, fading out. Is closure necessary for authenticity in ALL relationships? I would think that there’s a good middle ground for everyone to be real with each other without acting like jackasses. Maybe it could be a simple as this –
You: Hi, I’m changing my game plan for this business idea X. I don’t feel xyz details are a fit for me anymore. I am going to focus on idea Y now.
Colleague/New Friend: I’m sorry to hear that. I was excited for you. I don’t relate to idea Y, but good luck! (Alternate reply – I’m sorry to hear that, I was excited for you. I don’t relate to idea Y, but I wish you the best with everything. If I come across any resources that’ll be of help to you, I’ll pass them on.)
The second response is not necessarily ending the relationship in this conversation. Either way, I suspect such acts of closure don’t happen regularly. Most of us were not taught how to have such conversations with friends or colleagues. At best, we know how to end a romantic relationship, a volatile friendship, and sales-y/spammer/stalker situations. For these relationships that are in-between, we tend to let them fade out. Sometimes this happens naturally because one or both parties move away, etc.
Whatever your life changes, I believe maintaining authenticity with others is important as your plans evolve. Does the level of commitment/interaction in the relationship change the need for closure? If the interaction was nothing more than a casual one-time meeting, it doesn’t call for it. However, if an exchange of some sort over a few meetings or more – yes. Offering some follow-up I think shows respect. Maybe I care too much? Maybe it becomes too much work to do on a one-on-one basis for those that are very busy/overwhelmed? I know that some will define respect and authenticity differently from me. So, I am curious – what’s your experience and preferences? Leave a comment and join the conversation.