Can People Open up & be Authentic in a training program? – An experience.

Can people open up and be authentic to the core in a training program?

I have an interesting experience to share.

We, a group of coaches, were in a self-discovery workshop. Most of us were regular acquaintances, some could call each other friends, and a few were new to the majority of attendees. What connected us was that we called ourselves coaches and we had a monthly meeting fixture for all things coaching related.

In this workshop, we reached a point where people started giving feedback. One person at a time received feedback from all the rest, one at a time. So, when one person spoke, everybody listened. This was candid feedback about how I perceive you, what I appreciate about you, and what I don’t! And as these things go, everybody was getting hooked onto what was being said. It happens all the time, doesn’t it, that when people stop being politically correct and shed formal niceties, they become irresistibly compelling to each other and the whole group!

As we were going about the whole thing in turns, we awaited a quiet lady; let us call her Neha. Neha alluded to the question I began this post with : Can people open up and be authentic to the core in a training program. She did not make any claim to know the answer. But, she made her choice for herself and expressed it. She said, ” I won’t be opening up to the extent I know I can – for now”

As far as the energy flow is concerned, as every trainer worth his or her salt would gather, this was a pivotal moment. What happens next?

Think about it as a trainer, a coach, or anybody interested in group dynamics or energy flow. With every feedback round, we were building up momentum for big-time bonding. We were gushing forth. Wouldn’t Neha’s response have broken the flow? If Neha is true to her words, can it be said that her participation in the workshop  would end up being measured and less exuberant in comparison to others, who were gung-ho about expressing themselves.

Here is what happened.

Far from breaking the flow, Neha’s response enhanced it! That is the magic of being authentic in the moment. On the face of it, Neha’s words said I will not participate in the way expected of me. These words were breaking an implicit bond or so it seemed. But in saying what she did, Neha was opening up and being authentic to the core! And her words fell by the wayside as her response ironically created the space and acceptance for being whatever we wanted to be in the moment. You don’t have to be open and you are not compelled to be authentic. You choose.

In our quest to be together, to bond, and to be united, we become mindless and give in to whatever seems to bring us together. Neha’s response made us mindful and awake to the choices we were exercising. She made explicit the power of choice in exercising it. We experienced her freedom in what she did and it reminded us of her own. The choice and freedom in choosing to be or not to be! That was infinitely more powerful.

But Neha’s contribution scaled it’s peak at the end of the workshop.

Each one of us had drawn a self-portrait that included everything that is important in our life within the frame. All of us were to speak about what this self-portrait means to us. Can you guess who among us really spoke up?

Yes, it was Neha.

She opened up in a way that stirred everybody’s emotions, including her own. She touched about her own life-experiences, her own longing and loss. She went farther and deeper than all of us in reaching the depths of her soul. And she left an impact that stays with me, to this day.

People can open up and be authentic to the core in a training program. But if that happens, what follows next cannot be planned for. And it certainly cannot conform to a scripted agenda. And yet, as experienced professionals know; when people open up and are authentic, special things can happen!

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