The Gustavian Weekly

A Helpful Reminder: Be Genuine

By Colin Rieke Opinion Columnist | May 2, 2014 | Opinion

Briana Jo Bloom and Angela Gewerth. Two genuine people. One genuine conversation. Colin Rieke

Briana Jo Bloom and Angela Gewerth. Two genuine people. One genuine conversation. Colin Rieke

Colin_RiekeCrunch time. Finals. No time. Summer.

These thoughts are undoubtedly on your mind as you slave away making sure to keep up with studying and all of your busy work. You are becoming more stressed, feeling slightly overwhelmed, and can feel yourself starting to bottle-up your emotions. You see several friends on your way to class. They say hello and ask, “How are you?” as they usually do. You hesitantly reply, “Good,” as you usually do, even though you know that response is false.

You’re at the Courtyard and notice a buddy in line waiting for a smoothie. You’re not in any rush so you say “Hi,” and continue on. Little do you know, if you would have taken an extra two minutes to strike up a genuine conversation, you would have made a world of difference for your friend, who happens to have had an awful week. Instead, you let that opportunity slip away. In both instances, were you behaving genuinely? Were you being authentic? Honest?

If you answered no to those questions, how come? Unfortunately, I think many of us assume others don’t care about us. We tend not to show sincerity towards others because we think people don’t want to hear about our problems. Others only care about themselves, right? Why should I be genuine if nobody else is?

What we are dealing with here is an issue regarding genuineness, but before I go any further, let’s set some things straight. First, people do care. Second, those same people want to know how you’re truly doing. Third, they want you to genuinely care about them too.

Being genuine is of critical importance as the end of the semester quickly approaches. Tensions are high and now is the time when we need to rely upon each other, on our community, for support.

Central to Gustavus’s unique sense of community, genuineness is something I have not seen being exhibited by Gusties as often as it should. The message I want to share is to be more authentic, real, sincere, true, and honest. Be your genuine self and show a genuine interest in those around you, for your own sake and for the sake of others.

There are two ways to think about genuineness. On one hand, we ought to be genuine for the benefit of ourselves. Being genuine means being true to yourself. It means being real. It means being you. There is a certain freedom or sense of relief when you are yourself as opposed to acting like somebody you are not.

On the other hand, we ought to be genuine for the sake of others around us. How much better do you feel when somebody comes up to you and sincerely wants to know how you are doing? Do we not make others feel better when we show them we care about them and want to help them?

The profound power of genuineness and authenticity is no better illustrated than by my Aunt Pam. Now in heaven, my Aunt sincerely loved everyone she knew. You instantly knew how much she cared about you. When she talked to you she looked straight into your eyes with a big smile on her face. She was so excited to see you and would instantly ask you questions about your life. Most importantly, she made everyone else a better person. By being her genuine, authentic self and constantly showing how much she cared about others, she made others happier. Is there a reason why we can’t be more like my Aunt Pam?

By being genuine you encourage others to do the same. And better yet, when you show an authentic interest in someone and are able to see the impact that has on them, it only makes you feel better about yourself. Being genuine starts with a conversation. Talk to someone, get to know them a little better, and make sure to display positive body language. This means paying attention to your friend when they are speaking and maintaining eye contact.

We know why we should be genuine, but how can we do so?

I have already mentioned being genuine involves being you. Don’t suppress your emotions. Emotions are unique to you and expressing your instinctive feelings enables you to embrace being yourself. An easy way to think about wearing your emotions on your sleeve is to let your guard down, which is a daunting challenge for many. Compared to public universities, Gustavus students are quite genuine and authentic,  but I see plenty of Gusties on a daily basis struggling with letting their guard down. Thus, they have difficulty being authentically genuine.

From my own experience, I think male athletes have the tendency to adopt the typical tough-guy persona. This attitude focuses on maintaining a certain hardened image rather than sharing emotions that make us seem weak. Instead of being the toughest person in the room, we shouldn’t be afraid to show our emotions and to interact with others in a loving fashion.

Don’t be afraid to sit down and share with someone how you honestly feel. Conversely, don’t hesitate to be on the other end of that conversation, to listen and to show you care. If you truly care about others and their well-being, then show it. All it takes is a smile and someone to start a conversation with.