"Always tell the truth" is a mantra that we often hear and repeat to ourselves as well. Undoubtedly, it is important to express our feelings, ideas and perceptions, but what happens when opinions cause conflict in relationships? How to stay true to yourself and authentic without damaging relationships with others? How to protect relationships without living in a climate of dishonesty?
When "saying things as they are" hurts others
Speaking outspoken can be cathartic and also conveys a feeling of power. It is good to express our feelings, needs and ideas. It is a relief to be able to say what we feel without having to worry about the impact our words will have on others.
But at times we may come to adopt a narcissistic attitude that prevents us from realizing how our truth affects those around us. Indeed, we also often feel proud to “say things as they are”, even if we actually say them as we think they should be, regardless of the consequences thereof.
However, we must be careful not to enter that red zone where our freedom of expression can become toxic, both for others and for ourselves. In that danger zone, the truth is transformed into a sword with which we can hurt the other.
Attachment theory indicates that we need a minimum of security to maintain satisfying relationships. It is not enough to simply establish an emotional bond, the relationship must also convey safety 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 shouldn't lie to us because that way we would lose trust and the relationship would fall apart. It is necessary to meet an intermediate point, which is found in assertive authenticity.
Assertive authenticity: Speak from the heart without harming relationships
The idea of telling the truth, whatever it costs to someone who feels hurt, basically includes some mental rigidity. It involves assuming that absolute truth exists and that the views, ideas or beliefs of others are wrong. Those who take this attitude do not understand that there is a third way: one can be authentic and at the same time empathetic.
In fact, to the same extent that we nurture our Emotional Intelligence, our ability to express ourselves authentically without hurting others or damaging our relationships will also increase. This means that we can develop the ability to express our feelings and opinions in a genuine way, while respecting the feelings and opinions of others.
In this regard, John Gottman, one of the most famous experts in interpersonal and couple relationships, has discovered that the factor that predicts the success and duration of any relationship is the level of awareness of the influence that our attitudes and behaviors have. on others.
Being aware of the power of our words can help us stop and weigh them even before saying them. We can thus consciously decide which idea we want to convey and do it in the best possible way without harming others. This implies being able to self-control and not falling into critical and blaming attitudes. It is therefore possible to speak our truth and be authentic by taking a respectful and sensitive attitude towards others.
Saying the first thing that comes to mind is not a sign of authenticity, but of a lack of self-control and empathy. Taking time to reflect and express our message sensitively will allow us to develop a less aggressive communication style and generate trust, thus strengthening our relationships.
After all, our freedom and even our truth end where the freedom and truth of the other begins.