I grew up in New York, and while I never sounded like Bernie Sanders, I did have an accent. It was something that was frequently remarked on when I moved to the west coast. Not the biggest deal, but I gradually learn to say “coffee” without the “w” in the middle. After 20- odd years, it’s second nature to pronounce the letter “r.” On the other hand, when I’m really tired or angry, then Brooklyn comes out loud and proud.
That is a very specific and granular example of what negotiation expert Mori Taheripour means when she says, “When tensions are high, you tend to revert to what’s most comfortable and recognizable- you become more of yourself, not less” (from her new book Bring Yourself) It is only when we are behaving in a way that is truly authentic to who we really are that we will present ourselves consistently, regardless f the external pressures.
Many people develop their work personas based at least in part on their own understanding of what makes them look more professional. While it does make sense to present your best side in your workplace, pretending to be someone you are not will ultimately do a disservice to both you and to your colleagues.
For example, expressive people may try to level out their emotions and appear to be more hard- nosed or analytical in order to be taken seriously by their colleagues. Under stressful circumstances, they will revert to their natural response patterns, however, and that change from the public persona to their natural emotional state will be unexpected and surprising to their colleagues. If that same had already seen that the expressive impulse was a part of the toolkit their colleague brought to their work, it would not shock them to see it come out. They would not feel like they had been blindsided by a Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde switch.
Authenticity has been valued for thousands of years since the Greek philosophers instructed us to “know thyself.” Business leaders have increasingly recognized the wisdom of this, as diverse perspectives prove to be better at making decisions and growing companies. We should be leaning into those traits that make us unique and are most natural for us, as those will best equip us to thrive as our authentic selves.