Truth Telling

Mouth of Truth

I went to a high school where our school motto was “VERITAS”, Greek for truth so I had a daily reminder growing up in how important it is to tell the truth.  Funny enough the idea of telling the truth that is a basic lesson for kids gets a lot more complicated as adults.  Every day we are faced with an important decision, to share our truth with those around us or to keep it to ourselves.  Sometimes it is something small or with an impossible answer, “Do I look fat?” quickly comes to mind.  Other times it is a lot more complicated in drawing the line between telling the truth and being rude.  Here are some important things to remember when it comes to navigating the mind field of telling the truth to those around you.

Some truth is universal and some truth is personal, know the difference: The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west, it is the same for everyone and no matter what you cannot change it.  Your friend’s outfit being ugly is not in line with being universal truth, no matter how ugly it is to you.  Being honest with others is an important part of any relationship but doing so means you have to be able to communicate how you feel as just that, your opinion.  Once you’ve shared then that should be that’s all she wrote.  Being honest does not mean you will successful make your opinions someone else’s.  Remember it is not as universal as arguing that the sky is blue.  Knowing when to stop is an important part of cutting down on the risk of honesty turning down rude alley.

Delivery is fundamental:   The way you say things is just as or even more important than what you say.  Body language accounts for allot of communication that occurs so the extra gestures and looks all go into what someone takes away from the words you say.  Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is a great place to start when you have to tell someone a truth you feel will be difficult.  At work I once had to tell a member of her staff about her body odor.  Truthfully there is no easy way to have that conversation but imaging how I would like someone to have that conversation with me allowed me to tell the truth with compassion.

Check yourself before you share: At work and with friends sometimes our internal motives to telling the truth is the real priority instead of sincerely wanting someone else to know our truth.  Ever notice how much easier it is to share how you feel about someone that you are mad at instead of someone you love.  Motives can impact the urgency you feel in sharing the truth as well as the delivery so check yourself before you jump off the cliff.  Truth is usually received better when the intentions are to help to provide some insight instead of when it’s done to hurt someone or for you to feel the relieve of getting it off your chest.

People accept things in their own time: Truth is a journey and you sharing yours with someone else is just a stop on the path.  If your expectation is that in sharing your truth, people will revert to your truth then double check your motives.  At its best truth can provide some real insight that gives people clarity on how the world sees them and reconcile differences in that view and how they see themselves.  When a dear friend or respected co-worker shares truth with me I really try to internalize what they said.  In being honest with myself sometimes I agree and sometimes I disagree but as always knowing how someone else feels and their truth is half the battle.

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