What Does It Mean To Live A Congruent Life?
To live a congruent life means that your thoughts and feelings are aligned with your behaviour. In other words, what you think, say and do send the same message and do not leave people wondering or second-guessing. For many of us, this may not be the customary way of functioning but in this article, I will share 5 ways to know what it means.
Congruent behaviour or congruency was made popular by Carl R. Rogers through his works in Client-Centred Therapy. Rogers believed that it was only when a person’s self-image and ideal self were in sync that they could achieve self-actualisation.
In other words, only when you were behaving the way you would like to be, would you be able to achieve self-satisfaction which would eventually lead to healthy relationships and healthy personalities.
To some extent, we are all incongruent but through self-awareness and the courage to change your script, you may be able to reorganise your thinking, feelings and behaviours and live more harmoniously.
1. You Say What You Mean
One of my biggest pet peeves is having to figure out what someone means, REALLY means. You know exactly what I am talking about. Perhaps one of the most obvious and common places to experience this is in the office.
Case in point.
You take the time on a morning to extend a pleasant and welcoming greeting to a co-worker as (s)he passes your desk. You may even offer a cup of coffee. In return, you receive a very dry, “Good morning!“, without any form of acknowledgement. There is absolutely nothing “good” about that.
Of course, I have used a very simple example but you get the picture.
Clearly, your mind and feelings are disconnected from your words. You are not in the present and still connected to whatever you are allowing to drive your behaviour.
When you live congruently, you position yourself to express your thoughts and feelings respectfully. You do not send mixed messages with the hope that those around you would know how to respond. Your communication is clear and direct.
2. You Treat Others Respectfully
This extends from number 1. When you communicate with others assertively and respectively, you build strong trust in your relationships. Your message is being shared with the intention of helping others to understand and be open-minded. If there is confusion or conflict, you take the time to clarify and explain.
This is often difficult for someone to do because it may mean having to admit a failing or an error. Many interpret this as giving up their power and allowing others to take advantage. But there is strength in humility.
When you respect someone you genuinely care about their feelings and you are mindful and aware of the impact that you and or your communication may have on them. Self-awareness is key here.
One of the most disrespectful behaviours that I observe today is aggression. Whether it is direct or passive aggression. We seem to be losing basic courtesies when interacting with others and this is a sign of disrespect.
3. Your Communication Style Is Consistent
Communication may be verbal or non-verbal. Depending on where you are getting your information, you may learn that between 60% to 80% of communication is non-verbal.
This means that most of what we DO NOT SAY will have a direct impact on our communication and how our messages affect others. Remember my example about the co-worker walking in on a morning? Well, I am quite sure that you are able to assess your co-worker’s mood as they walk in before they say a word.
Building respect as a communicator begins with HOW you communicate – your listening skills, your attentiveness to the other person’s body language, the way you engage and participate in what is being shared.
These behaviours are crowned when your communication is consistent and people do not have to speculate on your mood, attitude or behaviours. It is important to not only be self-aware but also to self-manage and attract others to you rather than repel them.
4. Your Internal And External Lives Align
In my experience, this is prevalent within organisations and the virtual world. I often reflect and research to determine what causes it and where it comes from. The disconnect results in a lot of undue (dis)stress. It is not unique to any particular culture or environment and I am of the opinion that the proliferation of our virtual connections makes it a lot worse.
There is even a name for it online, “catfishing“. But let’s return to behaviours.
When you are living your life with congruence, your internal self, thoughts, words and behaviours are expressed with a consistent connection to your external and non-verbal self. There is no disconnect.
What this means is that you live in a world of more eustress rather than distress. You do not create scenarios or events that require worry, unnecessary drama or sleepless nights for yourself. There is no pretence and your authenticity is strong, clear and highly regarded.
5. Living Energises You
By far, one of the most engaging and refreshing experiences of living a congruent life is the fact that it energies you. Life seems lighter somehow. When you think about the weight that (dis)stress causes and how difficult it is to function when you are trying to manage all the disconnect that may be surrounding you, you wake up to the fact that there must be a different way.
A simple act as learning to say “no” when there is something that you do not want to do takes a weight off of your shoulders. Almost on a daily basis, in my coaching practice, I communicate with people who are struggling with this and all the chaos that it creates in their lives.
It can be likened to being in the gym for the first time and trying to bench press 200 lbs. Impossible right?
Learning to live with congruence will take time and perhaps one of the most effective places to start is by learning to become more assertive with your behaviours. Role analysis and assertiveness are precursors to living a full, healthily functioning and energised life.
Closing Thoughts . . .
In my days of living incongruently, I am sure I was living mostly by route. Going to school, work, family events and so on only because I felt I had to and it was what “normal” people did. As I look back on my life now, I realise that I was disconnected from myself and so much that was going on around me.
As an introvert, I lived mostly within and tried my best to not allow what was happening internally to affect my functioning and behaviours. But, it did. It is almost impossible to keep your inner self bottled up without some type of venting or explosion happening.
Today, however, I fully enjoy living in the present and I choose to show up and participate fully with people I want in my life. If you are still in the brick-and-mortar world, having to commute and function in an office every day, it is even more important to find congruency in your life.
When necessary, I say “no” to things, as Marie Kondo says, that do not bring me joy.
My thoughts, feelings and behaviours are aligned and I am authentic when communicating with others. My relationships are based on positive regard, healthy intent and respect.
Life feels so much better when you change your script!