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Simple Strategies for Telling the Hard Truth

When it comes to honesty, human foibles and fears combined with a very real desire to keep things comfortable can inhibit the best communicative exchanges.

You likely don’t need to think too hard to recall a time when you needed to tell someone something, and you found yourself holding back.  Having called to mind the situation, ask yourself this:  what was getting in the way of your truth-telling?

My guess is that at the very core, there was an element of fear.  Fear that you’d hurt the person’s feelings, fear that you’d be hurt in response, fear that the individual you’d be addressing would be mad at you, fear that you wouldn’t be understood, fear that you’d be “shunned” in some way, shape or form.

Fear is a big, powerful obstacle to truth-telling.  In spite of this, however, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that when you can actually speak the truth – or your truth, remembering that there are always numerous sides to THE truth – there’s a liberation that’s found, and a service that’s attained which goes beyond the hurt. 

In other words, even if you do get hurt, even if the other person gets hurt, even if your fear is valid and your feared outcome becomes reality, there’s a way that the truth is better than what you would have experienced otherwise.  So, how do you get past the fear and tell the truth, even when it’s hard?  Well, here are some simple strategies:

1)      Get clear on your desired outcome.  Knowing why you want to tell this particular aspect of the truth will inform the words you choose, the method you choose, the venue you choose.  If you’re going for a change in outcome, you’ll choose a different phrasing than if you’re simply sharing information.

2)      Speak to serve, not to hurt.  In other words, if you’re simply sharing to vent, that probably isn’t nearly as valuable as sharing to improve a relationship or situation.  And if you are sharing to vent, be clear and own that.  This goes back to knowing your desired outcome.

3)      Name the feeling you’re experiencing, that’s prompting the telling of this particular truth. Phrasing such as “I’m feeling really unheard, and I need you to know…” is a powerful way to provide some explanatory context for what is about to be said.

4)      Stick around; it can be tempting to “tell the truth and run”, especially when you’re concerned about how the receiver of your truth might react.  Sticking around to hear the other person’s response and then to respond in turn, actually makes truth-telling much easier. 

5)      Ground yourself.  Check in with yourself and make sure that you are solidly anchored in whatever it is you want to say.  Be fully present.  Don’t allow yourself to be distracted.  And if distraction is simply part of the circumstance in which you find yourself, be as deliberate as possible so that the distraction doesn’t take away from the exchange at hand.

6)      Distinguish between opinion and fact, and then between the truths that move things forward, the truths that keep things stuck, and the truths that ultimately destroy.  Sharing an opinion can be a vital part of sharing your truth.  But your truth isn’t necessarily THE truth – at least not in its entirety – and knowing the difference can go a long way to keeping relationships solid.

Bottom-line:  honesty is the best policy.  And, any way you slice it, being honest can be tough.  Knowing why you’re saying something, what it is you’re striving to serve, and how it is you want things to move forward can go a long way to helping you speak your truth, even when it’s hard.  Get clear, stand in service, speak your truth, and watch how the truth sets you free, every time.

Tracy Harvie