In my professional development as a Behavioural Consultant, I have worked with many models to increase my understanding and effectiveness. I recall hearing one of my Partners speaking about congruency to a Client and immediately started to question what IS congruent behaviour. I had no clue how this term applied to my behaviour but, from what I was listening to, I myself had a lot of work to do to become behaviourally congruent and live authentically.
If this resonates with you, then follow along and leave a comment below. I welcome your thoughts, experience with and interest in the subject.
As you know, we always begin by understanding the meaning and context of our models and terms. Once you understand the foundation, you are able to better analyse, manage and change as you see fit.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, congruent means “similar to or in agreement with something, so that the two [or more] things can both exist or can be combined without problems“. In essence what this means is that all parts of the whole must be equal and not conflicted.
We are addressing congruent BEHAVIOUR and should therefore continue our research.
I went to the Psychology Dictionary for a concise definition because they provide an understanding from many perspectives. In summary, they state two fundamental building blocks for behavioural congruency:
1. It is a consistent state of behaviour, meaning that there is consistency between the goals, values and attitudes projected and the actual behaviour observed.
2. The way you think and feel should be aligned with the way you behave.
Put very simply, my mental and emotional states should be reflected in the way I behave. If I say that I am happy, that feeling should emanate from the happy thoughts in my head and be visible to you when you see the genuine smile on my face or hear the truth in my laughter.
If I am displeased or unhappy and I SAY that I am happy because I do not want to tell you what is wrong, I am being incongruent in that situation.
For me to receive help or support, I must first move my behaviour to a point of congruency or alignment. This is one of the first set of skills that you develop as a Counsellor. If you cannot recognise incongruency and support the individual to move into a congruent behavioural space, it will be difficult to achieve a positive outcome.
Admitting That Your Behaviour Is Incongruent
Have you ever heard about Alcoholics Anonymous and their 12-Step Programme? The first action that you take is a simple one. You raise your hand and say: “My name is _________ and I am an Alcoholic.” This first step applies to many other aspects of life when we are seeking help and support.
If your behaviour is incongruent, the first thing that you need to do is get it to a place of congruency. That means, if you are hurting, you need to say: “I am hurting.” Faking a smile or not responding will only exaggerate your incongruent behaviour forcing your supporter(s) to keep asking: “Are you sure you’re okay?”
If this persists, you may well take yourself to a further aggrieved position and start to lash out at the person who is trying to understand what is happening with you and why. He or she may also lose interest and walk away, leaving you in a worse state and probably feeling more despondent.
It takes maturity to acknowledge that something is not right with you and that your behaviour is incongruent. This is not always easy to do.
Be True To Yourself
In his February 1988 classic, Man In The Mirror, Michael Jackson sings:
“I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer”
This is what it means to be true to yourself, to be authentic. Any change that you want to make, in yourself or a situation, must start with being honest and transparent with yourself.
If you are unhappy, admit it. If you are hurting, acknowledge it. Allow yourself to think, feel and express emotions that are consistent and aligned. Anything other than that creates conflict in your functioning and makes it a challenge to move forward with positive progress.
You will stay in the same place going round and round in circles unable to determine why and making your life harder for yourself. To make a change, you must look at yourself in the mirror and acknowledge what you see, think and feel.
No pretense. No hiding. No lying.
This is often easier said than done but without taking this fundamental step no amount of support or interventions will be beneficial for you.
Congruency Builds Trust And Credibility
This should make sense once you understand that being incongruent means that you are not being honest with yourself, first, and others as a consequence. How can you build trust if your are not honest? The surrounding people will see that what you are saying is not in alignment with your behaviour.
They may not come out and tell you but they will respond to you with limitations.
When you behave congruently there is no need for a mask or for pretense. You are genuine with your feelings, intentions and behaviours. People experience that of you and relate to you as being trustworthy. This builds your credibility. They will relate to you with confidence and pass on those feelings and thoughts about you to others.
Their references for and referrals of you will be positively engaging. It will be like having your own sales force working for you. All of these experiences will redound to your benefit. Your self-confidence will improve. This will then contribute to improved personal and professional performance and productivity.
Make Your Life Lighter
I am a seriously committed to maintaining a simple and authentic life to ensure that I live well. To achieve that, it means being honest with myself and being authentic. It becomes heavy when you live with a mask, hiding your true feelings and blocking your maturity.
- Think how much easier and more attractive it will be for you if people do not have to guess what you are thinking or feeling.
- Think about how that will benefit your relationships and growth as a human being.
- Think about the impact being congruent will have on your career development and your ability to support those around you – your friends, family, children, co-workers.
- Think about how easy it will be for you to manage one flow of thought, feelings and behaviours rather than two or three different ones.
Suddenly, life will become lighter and more enjoyable. All because you moved yourself into the realm of congruency.
Do you want to understand how to assert yourself and strengthen your effectiveness?
Leave a Comment below and let us know your thoughts on behavioural congruency, what resonated with this article or, how we may be able to support your growth and development.
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