How Do You Tell The Truth Without Offending?

If you’ve ever thought that if you tell someone the truth you’re going to offend them, you’re not alone! In fact, I got an email recently from a woman who came to one of my workshops. 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?" I get this question often. 

If you’re hoping not to offend someone with your words, I sense that  you care deeply about the impact of your words, about honesty and the other. It may also mean that you were offended by someone who told you the truth in the past and you don’t want someone else to have to go through this, too! 

What truth is and isn’t

First, let's clarify something. Many people think that telling someone the truth is about divulging all the secret judgments and opinions we’ve 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’re upset because your partner makes plans without you, the truth might seem like: "You are inconsiderate and selfish." 

This is a story about the person's actions, and your feelings about them.  Your partner may make plans without you because these plans may involve people you said were boring. The plans may be about activities that you dislike. Making plans without you may be a way your partner actually shows consideration for you and your needs! 

Mental interpretations or stories actually obscure what is true for us.

The truth is an inner experience of what feels fulfilled or unfulfilled within us, and about what we value. 

If you want to share what’s true for you, you don’t need to share your story but reveal your inner experience. It’s what I like to call your inner landscape. 

Revealing your inner landscape requires you to be connected to what matters to you. 

How to tell your truth

Using the example above, sharing the truth would sound something like this: "I love connecting with you.  I hoped to spend some time with you this weekend. I really care about inclusion.  When I heard you had already made plans, I felt resentful and lonely." 

Notice the difference in the quality of your sense of internal connection between "You are inconsiderate and selfish" and the approach of revealing your internal landscape.

Now, you can’t really guarantee how the other is going to receive what you say. We can’t read other people’s minds and some people may even look like they’re receiving you well when they are not. 

If you’re interested in having a healthy relationship with the other person, then it's important to find out how they’re receiving your truth.

You may want to ask "How is it for you to hear that?" and let the other respond. However, if you’d like to try asking this question to someone who stays quiet after they heard your truth, then you need to make sure you have openness and receptivity to their answer. 

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. 

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