Whether we’re chatting with a stranger or hanging out with our bestie, one of the beautiful things about human relationships is that different people bring out different aspects of ourselves. Some people bring out the extroverted, talkative sides of personalities, while others draw out our more reserved, pensive qualities. It all depends on how we feel around a person and what we deem is expected of us.
Have you ever considered what aspects you bring out in others? Do you make people feel accepted, comfortable and loved enough to be authentic in your presence? Or do people leave you feeling scrutinized, judged and exhausted? Often times, making people feel loved enough to be their truest self– even on a subconscious level– is an art.
Here is a quick exercise: think about the person who makes you feel most like yourself. Who is the person, and what is it about them that promotes an environment of authenticity? For me, it’s a bright woman named Julia. It never matters what I look like, how things are going, or even if we’re on the same page or not. When I’m with Julia I feel beautiful– and seen for who I am within. She has a no-ego attitude and a spirit of lightness that encourages whoever she’s with to forget appearances and focus on the heart.
There’s just one Julia, but we can each create a similar aura of genuineness around us. No matter what our individual personalities are like, or what our strengths and weaknesses are, there are little things we can incorporate into our interactions to foster more authentic relationships. The main thing to keep in mind is authenticity breeds authenticity. When we let go of our egos and insecurities and commit to just being ourselves, we give others unspoken permission to do the same.
Truth is, most of us work to appear like we have it all together on the outside, so being real about our vulnerabilities and sharing our hearts in conversation is huge. It lets others know that we’re not perfect and there’s no need for them to be perfect either.
Letting people know that we see and accept them also helps encourage more openness. That means giving people our complete and undivided attention (avoiding periodic side glances, phone checks, or whatever else might make them feel like they’re not enough), and then affirming them. Compliments, when genuine, are an incredible means of boosting people and helping bring out their best by letting them know the beautifulness we see within them.
In essence, it all boils down to really looking at whoever we’re with– not in a creepy, staring way, but in a way that goes beyond externals to the heart. Psychologist Carl Rogers wrote, “People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, ‘Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.’ I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.”
No two sunsets are exactly the same, and that’s part of their beauty. Let us strive to be like the artist who captures the best of each unique sunset, and strive to see, accept and love the people we encounter– encouraging their unique radiance to shine forth.
Artwork by: James Ormiston.