Intimacy at Work

Accountability Community Organizational culture


Key Point: People mostly appreciate when I’m authentic and vulnerable as a leader. In some ways, I find that surprising and counterintuitive to the mythical “strong, silent” leader type. And I recognize that we all want to be loved and experience intimacy, including at work. Hmm. I realize I might be causing some discomfort for some of you. However, as work and life becomes fully integrated, it is logical that love and intimacy are fair game topics.

If we’re honest, we accept and recognize that we as humans all want to feel close and connected to others. (For obvious reasons, I’m excluding physical intimacy at work as part of this blog). I’m talking about the emotional connections and required vulnerability that is part of deepening relationships. 

Most of us think about what is defined as “other-validated intimacy,” – the kind where we feel close or connected with someone else through shared experiences, beliefs, ideas or feelings. There are inherent flaws with relying exclusively on “other-validated intimacy” though.  At work, like in different parts of our lives, we are going to run into people or moments where we just don’t “get” each other. If other-validated intimacy is the only kind we know, then we are likely going to end to up feeling disconnected. Therefore, relationships can become shallower instead of deeper. 

So some psychologists are encouraging us to be aware of and apply another type of intimacy: Self Directed. Jodie Milton is an intimacy coach, writer, speaker and Co-Founder of Your Primal Essence. She has published a thought provoking article on the matter. The following are her key points:

“Self-validated intimacy is created when you reveal yourself to someone. It’s the very act of revealing that creates the intimacy. The response of others, whether they agree or disagree or are completely ambivalent, is not what matters. It’s that you’re choosing to share yourself, warts, beauty spots and all, with another. It’s your vulnerability, your courage and your openness that creates the intimacy…

Self-validated intimacy requires you to validate yourself. To know that regardless of whether or not your experiences, thoughts, feelings or ideas are shared, that they are indeed still valid. That you are valid. It means holding onto yourself as you strip down and bare it all, so that you may be more fully and completely known. And then continuing to hold onto yourself no matter what the response… We must reveal ourselves as a powerful statement of self-appreciation, whilst also opening ourselves to the possibility of truly being known.”

The reason I’m putting this on the table is that the thirst for authenticity in the work place is higher than ever. I’m not talking about everyone running around bleating out all kinds of personal, “crazy” things that may be best left unsaid. However, there are those moments when in order to deepen the relationship we need to take our own self directed step towards intimacy with teammates and others.  

Character Moves:

  1. Intimacy and authenticity as the path to deepening relationships deserves some personal reflection. Think about how, and when you might reveal a little more of your authentic self at work.
  1. Milton provides examples of topics to practice to get you started:

The thing I’m most scared of right now is…

What I most want you to know about me is…

The biggest challenge I’m facing in my life right now is…

The point as Milton emphases is, “If you want to go deeper in your relationship, this is the perfect place to start. Feel into an area of your life where you want to be seen, and then go ahead and reveal yourself.”

  1. Be aware: If you’re going to take a step in the self-directed area, do not necessarily expect reciprocation. This is being self-accountable and self-accepting of you and how you feel.

Self-Directed Intimacy in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Haha, y’know it’s tough enough for me to find someone at work I’d like to go to Happy Hour with, let alone dispense a bunch of personal information to. However, I’m certainly envious of those who do work in more tightly knit environments with co-workers they can also refer to as friends. Sometimes I long for a bonding work trip, or required retreat, but that’s not a reality where I work. One day in the future, I hope that changes for me. And I don’t mean that as a “boo-hoo” story, my team is just very small and we all lead extremely different lives. That’s ok too! But, if you can work with a band of buddies, I can only imagine that is ideal. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis