Social Emotional Learning

Part 1 - Real Talk: Practice of Genuineness

Fortified in silence, our genuine selves remain imprisoned, haltering our growth and hindering our relationships. Does it have to be this way? When life's relationship problems assail us and the risks of being true to ourselves seem so daunting, is our only option to clamor up and close off?

Fortified in silence, our genuine selves remain imprisoned, haltering our growth and hindering our relationships. Does it have to be this way? When life's relationship problems assail us and the risks of being true to ourselves seem so daunting, is our only option to clamor up and close off? Knowing ourselves is a lifelong journey and not an easy one. Even more, communicating what we know to be true about our experiences, our feelings, and our needs seems almost impossible. What if we are met with opposition? What if we are ignored or spotlighted? Ultimately, genuineness requires that we risk being vulnerable. While this can be scary, genuineness is essential to building authentic relationships and to building relationship-driven schools.

But how exactly can we develop a practice of genuineness in schools?

Let’s start by getting on the same page about what we mean by genuineness. While taking other people’s perspective is super important (and a whole other skill set we teach, called empathy!), it's just as important to be able to attune to your own feelings, thoughts, and needs and communicate that to others. Genuineness starts with diving into what is going on internally, pursuing self-awareness and self-knowledge, and ends with expressing what is truly going on to those around us in a way that builds connection rather than burns bridges. Developing genuineness takes hard work and requires intentionality along with a supportive community. But how do you grow your genuineness?

The first step to growing in your ability to be “real” or genuine is to increase your awareness of what’s going on with you in any given situation or problem. So, let’s break that down. Our internal experiences can involve any combination of problems, needs, thoughts, feelings, and/or values. Each of these can be signs to help us piece together the context of what is driving our motivations and reactions. They also help us break down the complex, inner “swirl” inside of us so that we can make sense of our experiences. By attuning to these five areas, we can more easily communicate our perspectives to others.

So, when you’re feeling “some sorta way,” first, simply ask yourself these five questions before reacting to or responding to a situation:

  1. What is the problem(s) for you?
  2. What does this situation make you think about yourself or others?
  3. What feelings and emotions stir in you?
  4. What value(s) does this situation touch on or compromise?
  5. What are you needing to resolve this issue or repair the relationship?

But knowing ourselves is just the beginning! The second step is expressing ourselves to others. As mentioned, sharing our true selves requires courage. In a sense, to express oneself is to expose the inner workings of who we are, and that always puts us in a vulnerable position. Risk is not monolithic. It is shaped by our life experiences and our identities. Your risk and the risk of your neighbor will not be the same.

At the core of risk is fear. This is where risk finds its power: any action becomes a risk when we fear what may be on the other side of it. So, when it comes to being genuine in your school life or personal life, what fears keep you from communicating your perspective to others? Which fear do you most resonate with, or do you think is most common amongst educators? We have provided some of the most common answers below:

  • The fear of being misunderstood
  • The fear of being rejected
  • The fear of being hurt or maligned emotionally or our reputation
  • The fear of being stereotyped or typecast
  • The fear of being spotlighted or ignored

These fears are legitimate, and there may be others that come to mind for you. Most likely, they are tied to how we have experienced the world up to this point. Whatever the source of our fears, naming them and letting others who support us know about them drains the power out of them and keeps them from being barriers to communicating our perspective.

Throughout this blog, we have defined what genuineness means and discussed the two main steps to take to improve your sense of being genuine. In order to successfully be genuine in your school, it is important to understand yourself first. This is essential for all educators.

Don’t know where to start? Download our reflection guide below! This guide will help you to better understand your thoughts and feelings so that you can address any sticky issues you may be dealing with in your school. It will also teach you how to communicate them healthily and directly.

At FuelEd, we pride ourselves on being the top resource hub for educator social emotional learning. Check out part two of our blog to learn more about how to move past step one of self-awareness and into step two: “real talk.”

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