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Speaking Truly, To Self And Others, Does Mean Being Authentic

Speaking truly does not mean saying everything. You can cut to the chase in a conversation, not burden a child with more than he or she can understand, be civil when you're angry, and not spill your guts in a meeting.

Nor should you confide more than is appropriate. There's a place for privacy, for not telling A everything you know about B, for recognizing how intimately you can safely communicate in a particular situation or relationship.

Speaking truth, to yourself and others, does mean being authentic. Is your outer expression lined up with your inner experience? Most of us have "that thing" that is hard to express. For me growing up, it was feeling inadequate. For many men, it's feelings of fear or weakness. For many women, it's feelings of anger or power. Could you find appropriate ways to say your whole truth, whatever it is?

Ask yourself: "What am I experiencing?" Relax your face completely and look at it in the mirror: What does it tell you? What does it say you need these days?

Also ask yourself: "What's important that's not getting named?" This applies both to you and others. Consider the hurt or anxiety beneath irritation or the rights or needs that are the real stakes on the table. Is there an elephant in the room that no one is mentioning? Maybe someone has a problem with anger or with drinking too much or depressed. Maybe someone's jumbo job—60, 70 hours a week or more, counting commute and weekend emails—is crowding family life out to the margins. Especially when you're upset, watch out for distortions in the words you use. These include leaving out the context (like getting mad at a misbehaving child who's hungry) using extreme language— words like "always" or flat statements that should be qualified—or using a tone that's harsh or nasty. Without talking like a robot, look for ways to be more judicious, accurate, and to the point in what you say.

Last, accept that no one is a perfect communicator. You're always going to leave something out, and that's okay. You have to give conversations room to breathe, without continually judging yourself as to whether you're speaking truly. Communicating is repairing. As long as you come with basic sincerity and goodwill, your words will weave and mend a tapestry of truth in all your relationships.





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