“There’s only one thing harder than speaking your truth, and that’s not speaking it.”
Heather, a baker for a catering company, began having issues with one of her co-workers after he bulldozed over her experience and capability in the kitchen. After her resentment had built up to a nearly unmanageable level, she called for a meeting, during which she explained to him how she was feeling.
“I made sure to speak my truth,” says Heather. “By that, I mean that I spoke with him in a completely honest way about my discomfort, without minimizing or downplaying the fact that I felt disrespected. I used “I” statements, and I was clear about why the work environment had become unbearable.”
Although the lead up to the talk was terrifying—Heather cried in her car on the way to work and nearly turned around—since the meeting, things have been much better at work. The caterer was able to listen to Heather’s statements without attacking her, and on the whole, her work environment has become significantly more pleasant.
Heather’s experience is quite common, especially in regards to the fear she felt before expressing her dissatisfaction. Most people have a difficult time saying what’s true for them when issues come up in family and work life.
They fear the pain of being rejected writes Mike Robbins in Be Yourself: Everyone Else Is Already Taken, so they alter their words and actions and may even manipulate situations and people to get what they want without having to speak honestly. This type of behavior left unchecked will erode trust and lead to further deterioration of the relationship.
Learning to speak your truth is not only mentally liberating, it’s also beneficial to your physical health. “When we let our true self be seen, when we let our inner pilot light radiate, we heal,” says Rankin, the author of the book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself.
Holding in emotions and resentments can lead to stress, which can be taxing on the body. Releasing stressful tension is just one of the benefits of speaking truthfully.
But how does one actually do this without alienating others?
1. Aim for being real, not right.
Speak from the heart, and focus on expressing your thoughts without attacking the other person. The goal is not to convince the other person your perspective is right and to gain their agreement. The goal is to share how you perceive the situation, how it makes you feel and how that feeling affects your ability to interact constructively with the individual or individual group.
2. Get to know your truth through introspective exercises.
Because speaking your truth is uncomfortable for many, true emotions get suppressed until they build up and erupt into a fight. This is when hurtful words are said, and more damage is done. If you take the time to recognize your feelings and what is creating them, you will be more prepared to effectively express yourself when issues arise. This leads to more effective and helpful conversations. Some introspective exercises you can do are: thinking or writing about what you value, what inspires you, what grounds you, what bothers you and why. Be sure to identify what gives your life purpose. Often behaviors that are annoying to you are rubbing up against one of your value systems.
Speaking your truth becomes easier with time and repetition. Always pay attention to your inner pilot light, and when something seems off in your outer world, take a moment; identify what is off and why it is bothering you. Then practice how you could address that situation. For instance, I’ve always practiced my speeches out loud standing in my living room. The more I practice, the more comfortable I feel with my words, I gain more clarity around the point I want to share with the audience, and the flow of the presentation improves with each practice.
As difficult as it may feel to speak up, ultimately it’s easier to be truthful than it is to evade the issue. It takes courage to speak up, to risk another’s displeasure, but in the end the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual rewards of doing so are endless.
Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications