The minute others get the impression you're playing a part, the trust you desperately need for a solid team or customer relationship dissolves, taking any chance of sales or career advancement with it. That's precisely why the idea of authenticity--that is, being your real self--has skyrocketed in popularity within the competitive market. If you want to come across as genuine, these habits are a good place to start.
1. Take time out.
You can't expect to show others a truth if you don't even know what that truth is. You have to define who you are first, good and yucky and everything in the middle. So practice a hobby. Do some reflection on a walk. Paint your toenails. Reconnect with and stop denying what makes you tick, the values you cherish, what you're fantastic at and what you could improve.
2. Wait before you talk.
Much of our conversation falls into one of two camps. It's often small talk, which is conversation just for the sake of avoiding awkward silence. Alternately, it's knee-jerk responses based on what we think is necessary to avoid conflict or to come across as competent, an insider or in control. (This includes corporate jargon, by the way.) Because everyone else uses these mechanisms, too, everyone else can tell when you're not being as open as you could be. Perfect your active listening and take the few seconds required to come up with something deeper that's not automatic and that better represents who you are.
3. Mention others.
People are social creatures. So if you don't casually talk about your relationships or interactions, you'll either come off as annoyingly closed off or as a conceited narcissist. Neither of those options makes people trust you. You don't have to detail every little thing. But let others see that others open to you and that you open to them.
4. Embrace a little conflict.
Just as it's natural for us to be social, it's also natural for people to have a full range of ideas and opinions. We're not all going to agree 100 percent of the time, and it feels unnatural to have zero disagreements. In this context, just as it's good to show some social connection, it's good to stand up for yourself once in a while. Without that differentiation, you'll seem like too much of a pushover or cookie-cutter and people will know they're not getting the real you. And conflict by itself is not inherently bad. It's just that we have to be careful to be respectful and speak with kindness to move forward.
5. Get uncomfortable.
This one is pretty counterintuitive. If we're being authentic, we tell ourselves, shouldn't we feel more comfortable, not less? Shouldn't it feel cushy, since we're not faking it anymore? Not exactly. The trouble is, as Jordan Harbinger eloquently points out in his article for The Art of Charm, sometimes we can get so good at faking it that leaving the familiarity of the story to be who we really are is scary. We can get anxious because being genuine simply isn't our habit, because stripping away the untruth leaves us feeling naked and vulnerable. Don't hide in that anxiety or let it hold you back! Reach out for what you want, even if you have to take baby steps to get it. Be considerate, of course, but don't worry so much about what others think that you can't stretch yourself back to where you're meant to be.
When we say we want "more" authenticity, what we're really talking about is simply getting to the point where our rate of conformity doesn't drown out our individuality. It's a state of being, not a specific trait or commodity we have. That said, if you go back and look at the above list one more time (particularly that last point), if there's one thing authenticity requires, it's bravery. You have to be brave enough to manage your speech, brave enough to do what you normally don't, brave enough to look yourself in the mirror no matter what you see. You have to balance your uniqueness and your desire to fit into the group. And like most things that improve us, the process of gaining that bravery isn't necessarily easy. But today, your business--and more importantly, your joy--depends on mastering that process. One calculated risk that yields success and confidence at a time, you'll do it.