If you’re like most people, the word congruence brings to mind little more than images of triangles, protractors, or that ‘D’ you got in geometry class. But how does congruence apply to self-improvement and to the art of joyful living?
The Role of Congruence in Life
Congruence in life is represented by the harmony between your values, thoughts, desires, and choices. When that harmony is lacking, life is frustrating and success is elusive.
Congruence as a Communication Skill
Of the many ways that congruence aids success, its value as a communication skill tops the list. One major reason for this is that many people, particularly women, are excessive “people pleasers.” They want to do what is necessary; however, they don’t want to upset anyone. So, a stern demand may be delivered hesitantly; serious concerns stated with nervous body language; critical feedback given with wavering eye contact; anger expressed with a meek tone of voice. This lack of congruence in communication is the source of many misunderstandings. But why is that?
Whether we know it or not, none of us communicate with words alone. We send messages to each other, not just with our mouths, but with our entire body. Along those same lines, we listen with our ears, eyes, and even our intuition.
We interpret conversations by analyzing voice pitch, facial expressions and body language. Unfortunately, when one conflicts with the other, effective communication fails to take place. Are you starting to understand the value of congruence as a communication skill?
Lacking Congruence in Communication
Here’s an example. Let’s say someone is making passes at you and it makes you feel very uncomfortable. In an effort to show your disinterest and to get them to back off, you completely ignore the advances. If that doesn’t work, you may speak up to say, “Hey, I really wish you wouldn’t say/do things like that.”
That’s a fairly decent choice of words; but for someone who despises confrontation, the delivery may include a low tone of voice, a smile, or a lowered head. Technically, it should not matter. The person should hear your words and keep moving. Right? Well, it often does not work out that way.
With or without realizing it, people observe you for congruence. If your words are not congruent with the other forms of communication you’re using, you may have wasted your breath.
How to Use Congruence as a Communication Skill
Nothing I’m stating here is meant to take away from the importance of saying what you mean and meaning what you say. But it is equally important to show what you mean through your entire communication skill package.
Don’t slouch as if you aren’t sure of yourself when you know full well what you want to say. If you’re going to say you’re sorry, don’t scowl or look away. If you want someone to know that you’re serious and angry, don’t give a pacifying smile along with your speech.
As children, many of us are taught to disguise certain emotions; such as anger, fear, or sadness. Well, it is time to realize that expressing the full range of emotions is completely normal. You are human.
You won’t be cheerful and pleasant at all times. You will also not be serious or unemotional at all times. When communicating with others, give yourself permission to fully express who you are and how you feel at that moment. You’ll be doing a favor for both yourself and the other party.
How Congruence in Life Leads to Success
In addition to its usefulness as a powerful communication skill, congruence is a vital overall life skill. Have you noticed that success eludes us when our actions are not congruent with our life goals? Think for a moment about the areas in your life with which you are (or have been) deeply dissatisfied? Now ask your self these important questions:
- Do I live my life in a way that is congruent with my hopes and dreams?
- Is the way I spend my time congruent with what I hope to accomplish?
- Are the people in my life congruent with the vision I have for myself?
- Are my actions congruent with my passion?
- Are my thoughts congruent with my desires?
A life without congruence is not hard to recognize. You may want to be heard, respected, and understood; yet you don’t express yourself in a way that is both respectable and unambiguous. You may want optimal health, yet you eat junk food regularly and refuse to exercise. Maybe you desire love and happiness, yet you cling to bad relationships. Or you have a goal to travel the world, but no plan to leave the rat race.
So often, we say we want things to be a certain way, but we don’t align ourselves with that outcome. I believe there are only two fundamental reasons for this:
- We don’t truly want what we say we want
- We don’t want it bad enough to do what it takes to get there
Now that may seem a little harsh. Maybe you can think of 100 other reasons for the lack of congruence in your life. That’s fine—I believe you. However, I also believe that the reasons I stated above are the underlying basis for any excuse you can muster. That is true for us all—myself included.
Recognizing Congruence in Life (or a Lack of It)
Living life is a lot like cooking. What you get out of the oven is a perfect reflection of what you put into it. You can’t stir together the ingredients for cornbread and expect to end up with crème brulee. It just doesn’t work that way. Work in = results out. With the exception of occasional strokes of luck, there is no way around congruence if you want to live your best life.
Instead of blaming other people, circumstances, the government, or even God when things aren’t going your way; take some time to reflect and make sure you’re doing your part. Are you practicing congruence in life? Or are you sending mixed signals to yourself, to others, and to the Universe itself?
As you consider the value of this ultimate life skill, I suggest thinking of congruence as a reflection of honesty. When congruence is a habit in your life, you radiate sincerity, thus making it easier for others to relate to you. Congruence in life leads to progress, change, improvement, success. And the ultimate benefit of congruence? You begin to trust yourself. You develop self-confidence as you clearly see yourself moving closer and closer to the life of your dreams. What could possibly be better than that?