With reality TV shows on almost every channel during primetime, we can all begin to wonder- is any of this actually real?  While a lot of what comes on these shows may be staged or edited to entice the viewing audience, considering what is reality is an important question.  What makes someone real?  How do you know when someone is being real in a relationship?

These questions point to the power of genuineness.  At times, we all may lie, fake, or withhold information to “save face,” control how others view us, and to ensure people respond to us in a predictable way.  However, by acting in this way, we are missing an opportunity to be real in our relationships so that they can grow and go to a deeper place emotionally.  We also are missing the opportunity to be honest with ourselves and to own the feelings that we are having about a particular situation.

In thinking through genuineness, these are a few points that can help us become more real with how we express ourselves to others.  Many of these ideas are outlined in Susan Campbell’s book Getting Real, which is referenced in IDEALS’ group curriculum Back on Track, written by Mary Ortwein, Sharon Bryant, and Benita Peoples.

Notice your own experience and then express it.  Self-awareness is a key point in being genuine, which includes noting your thoughts, feelings, concerns, and desires at any given moment.  This awareness will allow us to share our experience and therefore be more genuine in our relationships when doing so.

Invite a response while keeping distinct views.  Once becoming self-aware and then expressing yourself, ask “What do you think about what I just said?”  This type of statement will allow you to know if you are communicating your thoughts clearly.  However, it is good to keep in mind that though your experience may be very different from another’s, it is important to accept that person’s view as there own, not yours.  Often, when we hear a family member expressing their frustration or anger at a given situation, we are inclined to feel the same emotions.  However, noting that your experience is different and not feeling the pressure that one of you needs to change increases your self-awareness and genuineness.

Genuineness can be a powerful tool in developing more meaningful relationships.  It not only increases our self-awareness but also will grow the value of honesty in our personal and professional lives.  So, while reality TV may be entertaining in all of its drama, the person sitting beside you on the couch may be the one with whom a real, meaningful adventure can grow.

-Kristi Dugger, staff therapist

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