Edging Towards Honesty
A friend once said to me, “Something is gained from every act of honest communication.”
I recall my doubtful reaction. Yet I’m slowly learning he’s spot on. The trick is in how we define HONESTY. Being honest is not about sharing our thoughts. It’s about sharing our real truth—the only thing we actually can know—by expressing our personal feelings and needs.
Since my teenage years, I’ve made a few meaningful connections in which certain needs were being met, like attention, care, compassion, being heard and seen. An attachment of one kind or another developed—one I noticed but there was a lack of clarity in me and between us. In the process, boundaries got blurred and therefore easily crossed. And before long, there was a clean break-up. No more contact. Pain was felt on both sides.
I’ve been confused about these “break-ups” for so long, asking myself, “Why do two humans who enter into a caring, loving friendship disconnect altogether? How can this happen when I felt and still feel so much love for this person?”
A fortunate meeting
Now I have more clarity, thanks to a young woman I recently met. She spoke with astounding honesty. I saw her put much effort into not telling me what was on her mind—no analysis, advice, blaming, or judgmental words about me. On the contrary, she searched deeper to what was really going on for her. For me, there was little left to interpret, which is where so many dialogues lead to disconnection. She spoke primarily in terms of her authentic feelings and needs, her personal truth (a language Marshall Rosenberg coined Nonviolent Communication).
What I learned from her was that an initial lack of clarity between us was potentially damaging. She told me straight out she wanted to know about my boundaries, and she wanted me to know about hers. I realized that being really HONEST about my boundaries has never been my strong suit. Driven by my need for harmony and often out of care and concern for the other, I can hold back critical information about ME. I give “half-yesses” instead of the “no” I often want to utter. When I do this, I contribute to the blurring of lines and miss chances for upfront clarity and prevention of breaking up down the road.
Saying “no” AND staying in connection
I’m learning it’s possible to meet my need for harmony and honesty and integrity when connection is important for me. For example, I might say this in response to a request for an appointment:
You know there’s a part of me that would very much enjoy that, and at the same time, there’s a bit of stress in me. I really wish to care for myself, my time and commitments I’ve already made. Can we think of other ways we can connect that take less time?
Or perhaps in some other particularly-challenging-for-me situations:
I am feeling much compassion for you and enjoy our conversations because I get to know you better. I also want to take care for my need for balance. My time is limited and my space for building new friendships is also scarce right now. I trust that you can take care of your needs in many different ways. How is it for you if this is our last appointment for now? And if in the future, you very much wish for compassion, understanding, or help with clarity from me, we can make a paid appointment at my coaching practice? That would meet my need for balance.
I’m amazed at how this kind of honesty reduces my fears and enables love to flow (for others and for myself). My intention is to trust honesty far more in the future, because I believe (thanks to my new friend) that not only something can be “gained,” but that extraordinary things just might happen each and every time I am authentically honest.
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