How do you tell someone the truth?

I decided to write about telling the truth in response to a question from a participant of Speaking the Language of the Heart workshop. In this workshop we did several activities to express ourselves authentically. A participant emailed me a question I frequently hear from my Communication coaching clients as well as from my workshops participants. She wrote "I'm afraid that if I tell the truth I'm going to offend someone. How do I tell someone the truth then?"

Here is the response I wrote and chose to share it here:

From your question I hear that you care deeply about the impact of your words, and also that honesty matters to you.

First, let's clarify something. Many people think that telling someone the truth is about divulging all the secret judgments and opinions we have been storing in our heads about them. Judgments and opinions are not the truth; they are simply mental interpretations of our experiences. Sharing our interpretations with someone and presenting them as "the truth" can be harmful to everyone involved. For example, if you are upset because your partner makes plans without you, the truth might seem like: "You are inconsiderate and selfish." This is a story we have constructed about the person's actions, and our feelings about them, which actually obscures what is true for us.

The truth is an inner experience of what feels fulfilled or unfulfilled within us, and about what we value. So, to share what is true for us, we need to reveal our inner landscape. This revelation requires us to be connected to what matters to us. Using the example above, sharing the truth would sound something like this: "I love connecting with you and I hoped to spend some time with you this weekend. Mutuality and inclusion are important to me and when I heard you make plans with your friends, I felt resentful and lonely." Notice the difference in the quality of your sense of internal connection between the two approaches.

Finally, it's important to find out how the other person is receiving this because our intention is to connect with them. So, we could say something such as "How is it for you to hear that?" This requires openness and receptivity, so make sure you access those qualities before trying this.

The graphic you see here was created by another workshop participant who felt inspired to speak the truth by revealing her internal landscape.

I would love to know how this goes for you when you tell the truth by revealing your inner landscape.

If you have a question about communication, email me!