5. Err on the side of risk. It's not unusual to have thoughts that you hesitate to share. In your own mind, ask the Lord to help you discern if there is any reason why you should not share something that might be risky. Your authenticity is most effectively communicated when you put your personal interests aside and take risks for those listening.
6.Share what you really value and love even if you think those around you may not apprehend or accept what you say. We value people who have opinions—as long as they're not pushing them down our throats. Don't be afraid to show where you stand and what you highly value.
7. Don't spin. When you get something wrong, acknowledge it openly and maintain a positive attitude rather than trying to put a positive spin on your mistake. Be real without being hard on yourself. Beating yourself up for getting something wrong raises the stakes for others to share openly. With a smile on your face, simply share what you thought, that you learned differently, and you're glad that you did!
8. Forgiveness nourishes authentic relationships. We don't hold onto grudges; they hold onto us. Grudges and unwillingness to forgive others—whether they're part of our small group or not—erect barriers in relationships and make authenticity more difficult. In other words, a lack of forgiveness will produce a lack of authenticity. It is imperative for us to be right with people if we want to be real with others.
10. Employ the "Socratic Virtues" in your group facilitation. These would include the following:
- Listening. When people feel like they're being heard, they want to share.
- Patience. People who tend to be shy will need more time to open up. When they experience love expressed as patience, they will participate—in time. It is worth the wait because, when these people open up, it can be the tipping point in your group dynamic and take everyone to a new depth of authenticity.
- Perseverance. Like patience, perseverance is an expression of love. When people know you'll go the distance with them, they'll go deeper in dialogue.
- Trusting one's doubts. If you feel like you're holding back in what you're sharing, prayerfully discern if it's something God wants you to tell others, and go with your gut. If it seems like something is missing in what another person is sharing, carefully weigh if you should call it out in the group by asking questions or if you should talk with the person outside the group; either action can help to build authenticity.
- Talking frankly. People believe you're being real when you talk frankly with them. Honest input from the heart of a person you know cares about you is a treasure that transforms the relationship. Sharing without hesitation or fear removes any barriers that can prevent authenticity.
- Postponing one's judgment. Always be an advocate for the people who share, especially when they're being transparent. This doesn't mean you're always for their point of view, but that you are always for them. Give people time to share their heart and don't be quick to draw conclusions. People will not feel safe enough to share their heart if they feel rushed or judged. You want to really hear them so you can understand their heart.
- Be willing to revise your opinion and respect other points of view. Your willingness to change your opinion demonstrates a flexibility and openness in your communication style, which invites people into discussion. Most people do not enjoy debating and arguing points and opinion. They enjoy talking with somebody who respects the insights of others and really listens to them.
—Reid Smith is the Community Life pastor of the multi-site Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and the founder of the 2orMore.
Copyright 2009 by the author and Christianity Today.