5 Ways to Tell the Truth (And When)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

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5 Ways to Tell the Truth (And When)
There’s more than one way to use the best policy.

  1. Bluntly.
This is the utterly direct deliverance of the truth, and should only be used when an indirect deliverance won’t be understood. Like when your friend asks if you can see her underwear through her dress. A “yes” or “no” will work much better than a “well, maybe you should change your underwear” or a “not really.” When emotions are involved, though, this one probably shouldn’t be used because the directness can put people on the defensive. 

2. Tactfully.
Winston Churchill is quoted as saying “tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip” which sounds much harder than it’s worth. I mean, if you’re going to tell someone to go to hell, why bother with the pleasantries? For those who work in customer service, though, the answer might be as simple as the golden rule of the job: “the customer always comes first.” But really, a tactful delivery of the truth is useful when you don’t want to disrespect the person you’re talking to. So when your great Aunt Susie tells you (once again unsolicitedly) how wrong your choice of profession is, you can just smile and say “Thank you for your opinion, but I’ve already made up my mind, and I don’t plan on changing it anytime soon, but if I ever do decide to change my profession, I’ll certainly keep your suggestions of what I should be doing in mind.”

3. Emotionally.
Ah, emotions. For many, emotions are the worst enemy. Repressing them is much easier than expressing them honestly, but trust me: repression is much deadlier than honesty ever could be. It’s scary being honest about our feelings. There’s always that chance things could go horribly wrong and we’ll be left picking up the pieces of our broken hearts all alone. But there’s also always the chance that we’ll experience the greatest connection, that all our dreams will come true, that we’ll find our greatest selves all because we were truly honest about our feelings. Either way, we’ll be fine. Broken hearts don’t last forever, nor does the sting of rejection. Everything is temporary, good or bad, happy or sad. So take the risk. When you have a feeling, express it. Be honest about your feelings. It will be worth it, I promise. :)

4. Sympathetically.
Use this one when you’re worried about someone important to you. The relative going through a troublesome time needs to hear you say that you care about her and are worried for her safety when she behaves the way she has been. The friend who’s stuck in an abusive relationship needs to hear that she can do better, that you’ll help her through this, that she can recover. Sympathetic honesty is honesty delivered with the intent of care.

5. Responsibly.
This is when you take ownership for your actions, when you admit you were wrong and how. This is incredibly hard to do. It takes a large amount of courage, self-sacrifice, and responsibility to admit that we’re not perfect after all. For some of us, admitting we’re only human and make mistakes too is akin to writing our own death sentence. But there are some moments where taking responsibility for our actions, admitting our mistakes, is more important than making excuses and putting the blame on everything except ourselves. This kind of honesty has to start from within. We have to be willing to admit to ourselves before we can admit to another, and sometimes lying to ourselves seems like the only thing that’s keeping us going. It can be hard to really look at our flaws and admit they exist. But being honest with ourselves is the only way we can live an honest life and have honest relationships with others. Take responsibility for your actions. Admit your mistakes. Live honestly.

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