A concept that I have come to really embrace is that of “respectful authenticity.” At its core, respectful authenticity is the ability to be genuine and real, combined with the ability to be respectful of other’s feelings and perspectives.  It’s an important principal across our business and personal relationships and can lead to far better discussions and outcomes.

I personally find it easier to judge someone’s respectful authenticity over their integrity, a quality that has many cultural nuances.  As such, I’ve worked hard to embrace it as a core value and have come to realize that’s it’s a virtue I admire and appreciate in others.

To better explain what respectful authenticity looks like, I’ve created a 2×2 matrix of it in the web version of this e-mail.

Here is an example. If someone asks you “How do you like my dress” and you honestly don’t like it, there are a few different ways you could respond.

  1. “Not at all.” This Blunt response might be authentic, but it’s also quite disrespectful.
  2. “It’s fine, but it’s not all that flattering.” If you really didn’t like the dress on them because you actually wanted it for yourself, this Passive Aggressive response would be both inauthentic and disrespectful.
  3. “I like it.” Giving this response would be Conflict Avoiding because, while you’re trying to be respectful, you’re also being inauthentic – especially if you’d turn right around and tell someone else how much you dislike the dress.
  4. “I prefer the other one in [a different color] on you.” This more Tactful and Sincere response would make it clear that the dress is not one you’d select without making the person feel bad.

In general, I’ve seen that men (myself included) tend to operate more in the upper left quadrant (Blunt) and women in the lower right quadrant (Conflict Avoiding), both of which have sub-optimal outcomes. In the former, the message often gets lost in the delivery; in the later, an honest, respectful, and tactful answer is not being given. And don’t people deserve that?

Ideally, we would work to naturally gravitate our feedback and communication towards the “Tactful and Sincere” quadrant. While we don’t want to misrepresent or muddle our opinions, there is always a “best version of the truth” that we can offer when giving our opinion or making a point that still leaves the other person feeling valued and respected.

In business, this concept aligns strongly with the principal of “radical candor”, something that Sheryl Sandberg is known for being excellent at.

The next time you give feedback or you are asked for your opinion, see how being respectfuly authentic can work for you. This is especially important when you have a difficult message to convey. While the recipient may not necessarily agree with or like the feedback you provide, they’ll likely appreciate that you delivered it in a respectful, authentic way.


Quote of the Week

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”

Jackie Robinson