Is honesty or authenticity more important to the health of your relationships?
Ever have someone tell you they want to be honest with you and then they just rip into you like there's no tomorrow? Inside, you quietly wish they had kept their "honesty" to themselves. When someone is honest, they are simply sharing their opinion. You know the expression "This is my honest opinion." Their honesty is just that— theirs. Unfortunately, their honest comments or observations are about you. This is the trouble with being honest.
In coaching our clients, we often share how important it is to be authentic. Then later, when they share with us some communication they had, they tell us that they were honest. Communicating how you feel is a way for you to honor and value yourself. It's not that how we feel is oh so very important (as emotions are temporary)—it simply is a way to value ourselves by speaking how we feel in a particular moment. Let's clear up the difference between being honest and being authentic.
Non-violent communication practices are essential to a thriving relationship and this means using as little "You" language as possible and as much "I" language as possible. Unfortunately, typical honesty in communication has been an excuse to use primarily sentences that start: "You", "You", "You". When we are authentic, we are sharing about ourselves. Authenticity has nothing to do with another person. We tell someone, "I feel angry" and that let's them know what we are feeling in the moment.
Our ego mind lies to us and warns us about being authentic. It tells us that if we express our feelings authentically, then we will be rejected. It can also tell us that our feelings aren't valid, that we shouldn't feel this way, or that there is something wrong with us because of what we are feeling.
The truth is that we all want to be loved for who we really are, and yet we're all somewhat terrified to show up as to who we really are.
If you "scare" someone off by being authentic, s/he was never a good match for you! People tell you who they are by their behavior. If they get defensive or upset when you authentically share your feelings, that tells you about them and their ability to be authentic. Your reaction to their behavior informs you of areas where you can continue to grow.
Communicating in this way takes practice because we were never taught to do it. If you're looking to make creating love a priority in 2014 then it's time to uplevel your communication skills. Start by practicing authenticity. Speak how you feel regardless of the expectations of others. This means that you are completely authentic rather than jockeying your position based on what you imagine the might outcome be. Take responsibility for your feelings. No one makes you feel anything. Use this formula for knowing when something is your responsibility—if someone has a problem with you, it is their problem. If you have a problem with someone, now it is your problem.
Put your feelings into context, "I feel sad when...." Once again, do your best to use "I" language. It can be helpful to say "I feel sad when I perceive that...." Make a request that provides a solution. This request can be for the other person or you can propose a joint solution. It is helpful to remember that making a request in this way does not guarantee that your request will be fulfilled. This is a great way to find out what someone is capable of delivering.
When you are authentic, it is as if you are sending an invitation to the other person to meet you at that very high vibration. If that person accepts your invitation and they express authentically, a very beautiful thing happens that we call "The Magic of Intimacy". When two people are authentic, an emotional connection is created. The magical part is that the two of you do not need to agree. Agreement is an ego desire, and emotional intimacy is our soul's desire.
Start sharing authentically with your loved ones and you'll discover how good it feels to step into your authenticity. Leave your honest opinion to yourself unless it is requested. The next time someone says, "Can I be honest with you?", simply request that they be authentic instead.
More effective communication advice from YourTango:
- The Key To Effective Communication
- Relationship Questions To Ask For Long-Term Commitment
- Love: Tips & Expert Advice