This week we talk about authenticity β€” "keeping it real". We talk about the different situations in which we behave authentically to varying degrees, the characteristics of certain interactions that make them feel authentic, and, of course, some hacks to making interactions more authentic.

Some of the highlights from our discussion:

Perceived expectations play a significant part in how we behave and affect our degree of authenticity. Taimur talks about a meeting he had with an investor and the pressure he felt to behave in a way that was expected. There is a common human anxiety around meeting expectations and not breaking from an (unspoken) script. Similarly, these perceived expectations influence our signalling – having an ulterior motive and wanting others to see you in a particular light which affects the things that you say and do.

β€˜Keeping it real’ and being authentic are nebulous concepts. Each concept is particularly difficult to define – even when we reflect on our own experiences, it’s challenging to truly identify when we were being completely authentic or what prompted us to be more open in a situation. There are certain factors such as familiarity with the person/people you are speaking to which can elicit more authenticity but the precise details of what makes those situations especially authentic is somewhat elusive.

Authenticity is often expressed more regularly by young children. There is a naivety and innocence to children that means they are perhaps the most β€˜authentic’ amongst us. Before being aware of social subtexts and expectations, children are not concerned with social signalling to the same extent as teenagers or adults. It is a stage of life when we are perhaps, accidentally, most authentic.

Whenever we put something out into the world to people who, by definition, we don’t know particularly well, it’s difficult to be completely authentic. Ali talks about a Twitter account of someone who appears to be authentic and β€˜keeping it real’ but discusses how that person probably crafts that image therefore what might appear to be someone acting authentically might be a veneer or a persona rather than a true reflection of authenticity.

There can be ways to help you become more authentic. Although Taimur rails against so-called β€˜hacks’, things like vulnerability, breaking the pattern, diverting from the expected scripts can help us move towards a position that portrays more authenticity in situations.

Being authentic can have mutual benefits in a conversation. If one person in a conversation acts authentically, perhaps speaking honestly or breaking the pattern, this has reciprocal effects – it often elicits the other person to act more openly, honestly and break away from the expected patterns of behaviour and speech.


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What is this? Not Overthinking is a podcast about happiness, creativity, and the human condition. We talk about things to help us think, do, and be better. Things like social interaction, lifestyle design, mental models...things that are hard to examine, but important to explore. And hopefully, things that make for a fun and interesting chat every week.


Follow Not Overthinking on Twitter: https://twitter.com/noverthinking.

Who are we?

Ali is a junior doctor and YouTuber working in Cambridge, UK. He makes videos about medicine, technology, productivity and lifestyle design. His links: YouTube, Blog, Newsletter, Instagram

Taimur is a data scientist and writer, working on his own startup Causal. He writes on his blog and as a columnist for Medium. His links: Blog, Twitter, Medium, Instagram