5 Ways to Tell the Truth More Often
“The effectiveness of psychotherapy depends entirely on the client’s commitment to telling the truth and this applies to the client’s behavior inside and outside the therapy room.” -Brad Blanton, Phd.
Telling the truth has real therapeutic value. It’s what good therapy is based on. When it works, it helps us get over the past, teaches us about the ways we create our own suffering, and deepens our connection with others. But honesty is not just the key to effective therapy, it’s the key to a successful life. When we tell the truth about what we think, feel, and notice, we open up the possibility for connection beyond pretense and honor who we are in the moment.
The Sticking Point
Over the last few years, I’ve led a group called the Los Angeles Radical Honesty Meetup. We get together and commit to telling the truth to each other. It’s fun and exciting and participants generally walk away with a feeling of connection to people they have only just met. But there is a common sticking point: With so much a person could share, so many thoughts and judgments flittering through our mind all the time, what do we actually tell the truth about?
5 Ways to Tell the Truth More Often
There is no right or wrong way to tell the truth or share your experience with others. The mind’s desire for a right way, a comfortable and justifiable way, is what keeps us from experiencing the relief of telling the truth and the confidence to be who we are. But there seems to be ways of communicating that create more connection than others. Not all the time, but a lot of the time. And because our culture does not encourage these forms of sharing, we needed to give ourselves reminders and permission to say these things out loud.
Here are five ways to tell the truth that we found beneficial in our Meetup groups and Honesty Lab workshops. Give them a try and see what you discover about yourself and your relationships.
1. Share a secret with a friend about your past.
We all walk around with secrets from our past. In our daily lives, we construct personalities and roles to hide the things we don’t want people to see. We build stories to sell to others about who we are and then lie to maintain them. The secrets we are afraid to share use up our energy to keep them hidden, energy that could be freed for connection and creativity.
Tell a friend something you’ve hidden from them about your past. Tell them something you did that you’re not proud of. Tell your parents about the times you snuck out of the house and got drunk. Go for the most embarrassing.
2. Share how you feel in the moment.
Most of us spend our time with family and friends telling stories about the past. We share what happened to us last week, the person who cut us off on the highway, the colleague at work who we’re at odds with. Curiously, we rarely share information about how we feel in the present.
At any one moment, there are a symphony of sensations and emotions that ebb and flow throughout our being, so it’s often tricky to pin down sensations with language. Such is the general problem of describing anything accurately. Don’t worry about it.
Try sharing how you feel about being with the person you’re talking to, or how you’re affected by something they’ve said. Try saying:
- “I feel (happy, sad, mad, etc.) sitting here with you”
- “When you said that, I feel (happy, sad, anxious, etc.)”
- “I appreciate you for saying (and then say what they said)”
The more you share about how you are feeling being with the person you are talking to, the more alive the experience will be for you and for them.
3. Share your self-talk.
Our minds are constantly working, thinking, strategizing, manipulating, fantasizing, and creating. We spend our days in endless conversation with ourselves attempting to make meaning from our experiences and stay in control. Sharing some of your inner dialogue to a friend, in the moment, when it occurs, helps to bring truth and intimacy to your relationship and gets you out of your head. It reveals a broader picture of who you are, an experience that often produces more connection than less. A few examples:
“I was a little nervous before you showed up since I haven’t see you in a while…”
“While you were saying that, I was thinking of all the ways I could …”
“I’m worrying myself that you’re mad at me…”
4. Invite your friends and family to tell you the truth.
When I do honesty coaching, a common fear clients have about sharing more of themselves is that the people close to them won’t understand. That’s true. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Part of learning to be fully yourself is to get over trying to control how people respond or don’t respond.
One way to work with this fear is to invite your friends and family to tell you the truth by asking them how they are feeling, what they are experiencing, and how they are feeling about your relationship. We live in a culture of secrets and role-playing, and we’re rarely asked these questions because most of us are afraid of hearing the answer.
By developing your capacity to ask good questions and hear what other people are really thinking and feeling, especially about you, you develop resilience and build relationships more firmly rooted in reality.
5. Find a friend and tell the truth to each other for one week.
There’s nothing like focusing on truth telling to jumpstart your own personal and relational growth. Most people will be terrified to do this, but you might find the courage to ask another courageous friend to tell each other the truth for one week.
Yes, you will feel uncomfortable, almost all truth telling feels uncomfortable at first, whether it’s about sharing what you really want in life, a secret you’ve hidden for years, or what makes you angry. But in time, and with practice, you can begin to settle into the discomfort and recognize it for what it is, a flood of alive sensations in the body that isn’t as bad as your mind told you it was.
In fact, you might start to enjoy these intense and alive sensations as an unexpected pleasurable byproduct of telling the truth. Try using the three levels of Radical Honesty as a guide.
Truth telling is a beneficial virus.
Truth telling is a beneficial virus. The more you share with those who are close to you, the more you give them permission to do the same, which then inspires you to continue telling the truth. Intimacy, growth, love and forgiveness are created through this virus and it can start simply by sharing just a few words that were previously withheld.