13 Mar 2011 |  for trainees | by Bill, writer at UK & Ireland Counsellor Directory

"You appear to be untrustworthy if your actions do not match your words." - Richard Nelson-Smith

Congruence is about being genuine – being yourself in your relationships with other people, without any pretence or façade.

When we are congruent, how we act and what we say is consistent with how we are feeling and what we are thinking. This is not always easy to do – our own fears and anxieties can get in the way – but with practice it can be developed.

Have you ever told yourself you feel “fine” but then have found yourself being snappy and irritable with those around you? Behaving and acting in a way that is consistent with how you are feeling means that self-awareness is important. It is difficult to act consistently with how you feel if you are out of touch with your feelings.

Being genuine or congruent, however, doesn’t mean being uninhibitedly frank, or blurting out what you are thinking or feeling. Deciding when not to share a thought or feeling with others is also an important interpersonal skill, and relies on other qualities too, such as sensitivity to others, empathy and respect.

In a situation where we decide not to share a thought or feeling with others, being congruent means not expressing a view or feeling that’s inconsistent with what’s really going on for us – not pretending to approve of something that’s not in line with our values, not feigning happiness when we are sad, not making light of something that weighs heavily on us.

“In my relationships with other persons I have found that it does not help, in the long run, to act as though I were something I am not. It does not help to act calm and pleasant when actually I am angry and critical. It does not help to act as though I know the answers when I do not. It does not help to act as though I were a loving person if actually, at the moment, I am hostile. It does not help for me to act as though I were full of assurance, if actually I am frightened and unsure. Even on a very simple level I have found that this statement seems to hold. It does not help for me to act as though I were well when I feel ill”.

    – Carl Rogers

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