I had a poster of Joey McIntyre hanging over my bed. Before I went to sleep, I would kiss it goodnight. Every night. I’d play the “Hanging Tough” cassette tape over and over again. Every time a New Kids on the Block video came on MTV, I would day-dream that Joey was singing to me. That he wanted to blow my mind that time. I had my mom buy Teen Beat Magazine the minute it was published so that I could collect every photo of him in existence. I wrote to his fan club weekly. I was in love.
It was seventh grade. And the most popular girl in school wanted to be my friend. My best friend. I was excited. I didn’t think I could go from the “grape jelly” gal to being friends with Ms. Popular, but there she was, asking to sit next to me at lunch and inviting me to her birthday party! One day, she turned to me and said “New Kids on the Block are dumb.” I stopped the bite of my sandwich and stared at her. “I can’t believe so many girls think they are cute. They are just ugly. U G L Y ugly.” She looked at me straight in the eye and asked, “You don’t like them, do you?” I met and held her stare and, with the most authoritative voice I could muster, responded, “NO. No way!”
We are all guilty of being inauthentic. Some of us at times. Maybe even just once in a blue moon. Others of us all of the time.
1. We tell people what they want to hear. Maybe we tell them that we agree with a political/social/economic stance they have, to avoid debate on a topic – because we fear they will get angry and/or leave us. Maybe we tell them that nothing is wrong, when there is something bothering us – to keep the peace. Maybe we tell them that we don’t like New Kids on the Block, when, really, we want to become Mrs. McIntyre and have little new kids all over our own block – so that we will be accepted.
2. We do things that we don’t want to. We’ll get serious with someone and realize, a few months down the line, that the person’s integrity, values and morals don’t line up with our own. Yet, we’ve fallen for that person. We’ve invested substantial time. So we stay, agreeing to overlook the one (important) issue and justifying it by adding up all of the many (unimportant) aspects of our relationship that make us happy.
3. We make judgments based on what we are taught to think, not what we feel. Or, worse, we conform our feelings to mirror what we are thinking. We are conditioned from birth. We are taught what is “good” and what is “bad”. What is “right” and what is “wrong”. What is acceptable social behavior and what is irresponsible child’s play. Our lessons are dictated by where/how we are raised and who raises us. So, from the first time we see someone, or hear someone – we have an opinion already formed on who we think they are, what we think they can offer, what we think we can offer them.
In all of those circumstances, we aren’t being genuine. We aren’t being who we are. We aren’t being authentic.
Of course, it’s very easy to say “be real”, “be genuine”, “be authentic” but it’s another thing to learn HOW to do that. So, when I heard about Jeffrey Platt’s Authentic Relating Game Night, I was intrigued. Intrigued enough that, although I had been in the city earlier that day for Date #16, I returned back to the city to attend.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Jeffrey describes it as a night where people learn how to really connect with one another so that they can feel truly nourished and inspired by their daily interactions with others. After my experience, I would say that Jeffrey’s definition underestimates the power of the evening. To try to explain the evening would do it an injustice. It’s something that needs to be experienced.
Before you attend, throw out your expectation of what a game night is. You won’t find board games, cards or even chairs. Rather, your entire evening is based on interacting verbally and non-verbally with the other attendees in ways that will push you slightly outside of your comfort zone. By the end of the night, you’ve learned how to “speak in the now”. You see how you’ve been conditioned to communicate in certain ways, even though you truly want to communicate in others. You learn how to bypass small talk and create a deeper connection. You learn how to appreciate…you! And how to vocalize it. And own it. And this is important. Only by knowing and accepting yourself fully can you appreciate the others around you. And by the end of the night, you do. Or you feel as if you are starting to. That you are on the path to “authenticity.” While all of this sounds quite “heavy”, I assure you the night is very fun! You’ll definitely laugh and you’ll come away with some interesting introductions!
This was all very much in my mind when I met Shaun for Date #17, Salsa Dancing at M&S Grill at Reston Town Center. Unfortunately, Salsa Dancing was cancelled due to a fundraiser that they had earlier in the day that spilled over into the salsa time spot. So, we sat at the bar for a while and chatted. We talked about what we did. Where we lived. If we liked our jobs. Where we hung out. The vibe at M&S was a little, dead, so we headed over to that “go to” spot, Paolo’s Ristorante.
As we sat down, I decided to take some of the lessons I learned from Jeffrey’s Authentic Relating Game Night and apply it to my conversation with Shaun. Specifically, I promised myself that every word I spoke would be with the purpose of strengthening my value. That I would not make assumptions. That I would ask specific questions that would help me arrive at a deeper connection with Shaun. That I would be honest in my answers to his questions. Not that I would have lied but, rather, that I would be “full-out” with my responses. Immediately, the tone of the conversation changed. We started talking about family, our faith, our past relationships, our goals. I told him about Authentic Relating Game Night and he was very interested. This led to a discussion on the types of relationships that we wish to have with our friends and a future potential partner. We looked up and found that we were the last people in the bar. In two hours, I was able to not only talk to Shaun, but to communicate with him. I was able to not only learn about him, but establish a connection with him. I noticed that I felt comfortable around him and I appreciated that he was eager to learn about me.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capture a photo of Date #17. But that’s okay. I’ll grab one when we go out again. Shaun asked me on a 2nd date. This time to really go salsa dancing!
(For those of you still not adventurous enough to travel into the city, Jeffrey and I are working to organize an Authentic Relating Game Night in the suburbs. One in Maryland and one in Virginia. Stay tuned for more info! Or, if you think you’d be interested in attending, leave me a comment!)
“If the REAL you isn’t sufficient or attractive enough to keep that person in the room, then let them leave. Because someone will come into the room of your life who will find the authentic you attractive enough. And when they come into the room in response to your authenticity, they will stay because you don’t have to keep your “act” going in order to keep them in the room. The tap dance can be over.”
-Neale Donald Walsch