What is Authentic Relating?

Authentic Relating is not a ritual, not a therapy and not a healing session. Yet it carries all of these elements. Authentic Relating is a framework to stay present with each other, let go of projections, and focus on what’s most important: Expressing your true needs and boundaries.

Authentic Relating began in the 1990’s by chance, to dissolve a conflict between friends attending Burning Man. Later on other facilitators in Houston, Texas, starting using a similar framework to play games of authenticity in a group setting, also called „circling“. This circling games were inviting everyone to speak their truth from the present moment, letting go of memories from the past and ideas about the future. The focus was and still is: Me, right here, as I feel and perceive the world.

A couple of years after playing the games with friends and their community, these „circling“ methods where put into a methodology and facilitators started teaching them to groups all over the US, which then spread to other parts of the world.

Authenticity in Needs and Boundaries

What Authentic Relating comes down to is expressing your needs and boundaries with ease. In a clear setting, with a framework that allows each person to express what they feel and how the other person impacted them, authenticity reveals itself.

Without the fear of being judged, people can be real. Without the fear of being attacked, diminished or ridiculed, authentic feelings can be shown. And when feelings are shown without blaming the other person, but simply stating them, they have an impact. Through the layer of emotions expressed in a clear and calm way from the standpoint of „I feel this…“, „Your actions made me feel this…“, the other person can receive what is being said much better.

Another way of creating deeper emotional intimacy is through questions. Instead of just listening to the other person, and waiting to speak yourself, you start introducing questions to allow the other person to reveal more about their experience, beyond just the mere facts.

Authentic Leadership

From this level of authenticity, authentic leadership can emerge. Not only as leadership in an organization, company or in the workplace, but in the relationship you cultivate with yourself, your life, your partners and your friends.

If you use the Authentic Relating framework to express what’s truly going on and invite others to do the same, you’ll soon see, which people have a genuine interest in you, and which ones are more limited in the way they communicate, see the world, and lead relationships.

It’s astonishing, how fast total strangers start bonding in a workshop, for example, by sharing something that’s a little deeper than the usual small talk, and how friendships are sparked just from one event. All because of revealing more about their personal experience, and seeing, that they are not alone in what they see, hear, feel and experience in life.

Authentic Connections

Authentic connections come from two people willing to show parts of themselves, that they usually rather hide. These can be parts they are ashamed of, fearful of getting hurt, or deem as not so „perfect“. In order to develop authentic relationships, it’s imperative that a person feels safe to show up how they truly are. There needs to be a level of respect, interest in human connection and willingness to understand the other person’s viewpoint, feelings and behaviours, in order to create a fulfilling connection – together.

If one person does not feel safe enough to be who they truly are, it’s gonna be hard to deepen the connection or to show up authentically – for both parties. Usually both will tip-toe around each other or hold back in certain situations, if they don’t feel they can reveal deeper feelings or an impact a certain behavior had on them.

This is where the Authentic Relating framework creates a safe space, so that both can be seen and heard exactly as they need it.

Authentic Relationships

Authentic relationships require you to drop the blame game, be open to receive feedback, listen attentively to another person’s desires, vulnerabilities and boundaries, and respond in a way that’s respectful and well, human. A lot of people have unlearned something, that for children is very natural. Curiosity.

To be in an authentic relationship with another person, be it friend, colleague, or romantic partner, there needs to be a continuous curiosity to see the world through their eyes, to understand where they are coming from, and therefore what their short comings are, as well as our own.

There is no perfectionism in Authentic Relating. Perfect has no place in an authentic relationship. But imperfectly perfect has. Like this, two different people can ideally complement each other. Not complete each other, but complement each other with their unique strengths, insights and behaviours.

Emotional Intimacy vs. Physical Intimacy

And here comes the kicker: Strengthening emotional intimacy through Authentic Relating games, and Authentic Relating frameworks for the more serious conversations, helps to strengthen physical intimacy too. Because, if you and your partner don’t feel safe enough with each other to open up (truly) and rely on physical attraction alone, the chemistry is gonna go away at some point. Or at least it will not bridge the lack of communication to feel intimate – on an emotional level.

However, the more safe you feel with your partner emotionally, and that means that you speak your truth and tell them openly about what you need, what you desire, and what is a no-go for you, the more you will feel respect for them and they for you. That in return creates a deeper level of trust. When trust is set as the foundation, your physical intimacy will deepen, too, because you trust the other person. And hence can do a lot more of what you desire and lot less of what you don’t.

Expecting your partner to open up or respond to you physically, when they are actually not even comfortable enough to be themselves around you, is not gonna work. Communication first, everything else afterwards.