“Speak the truth, always” is a mantra that we often hear and even repeat to ourselves. Without any doubt, it is important to express our feelings, ideas and perceptions, but what happens when those opinions cause conflicts in our relationships? How to keep true to yourself and be authentic without damaging the relationships with the others? How to protect the relationships without living in a climate of dishonesty?
When “saying things as they are” hurts the others
Speaking the truth, always, can be cathartic and even generates a sense of empowerment. It is nice to express our feelings, needs and ideas. It is a relief to say what we feel without having to worry about how our words impact on the others.
But sometimes we can adopt a narcissistic attitude that prevents us from realizing how our truth affects those around us. In fact, we even feel proud of “saying things as they are”, although in reality we say them as we think they should be, without taking into account the consequences of our words.
However, we must be careful not to enter that danger zone where self-expression goes beyond ending up being toxic, both for the others and for ourselves. In that danger zone the truth becomes a sword with which we hurt the other.
The theory of attachment indicates that we need a minimum of security to maintain satisfactory relationships. It is not enough to simply establish an emotional bond, the relationship must transmit security and trust, we must feel that the other person validates our emotions, which means that we must feel understood and accepted. It also means that the other person should not lie to us because that way we would lose all the trust and the relationship would break down. It is necessary to find a middle point, which is found in assertive authenticity.
Assertive authenticity: Speaking from the heart without damaging the relationships
The idea of telling the truth, no matter what it costs and hurts, basically contains a certain degree of mental rigidity. It implies assuming that there is an absolute truth out there and that the points of view, ideas or beliefs of the others are wrong. Those who assume this attitude do not understand that there is a third way: you can be authentic and at the same time empathetic.
In fact, to the same extent that we feed our Emotional Intelligence, it will increase our ability to express ourselves authentically without hurting the others or damaging our relationships. That means we can develop the ability to express our feelings and opinions in a genuine way, while respecting the feelings and opinions of the others.
In this sense, John Gottman, one of the greatest scholars of interpersonal and couple relationships, discovered that the factor that predicts the success and duration of any type of relationship is the level of awareness of how our attitudes and behaviors affect people.
Being aware of the power of our words can help us stop and weigh our message before we speak. We can consciously decide what the idea we want to convey is and how to do it in the best way possible, without harming the others. That means being able to self-regulate and not fall into critical and blaming attitudes. It is possible to tell our truth and be authentic by assuming a respectful and sensitive attitude towards the others.
Saying the first thing that comes to mind is not a sign of authenticity, it is a sign of lack of self-control and empathy. Taking time to reflect and express our message with sensitivity, will allow us to establish a less aggressive communication style and build bridges of trust towards the others that strengthen our relationships.
After all, our freedom and even our truth end where the freedom and truth of the other begins.