How To Express The Difficult Truth Without Hurting The People You Love

It is possible to tell the most difficult truths so that people are literally filled with gratitude afterwards. There is a piece of wisdom about life and relationships so important that it should have been posted on the walls of our elementary schools and taught us every day: “Our lives are often shaped by the significant truths we say or do not say.”

Most of those life-defining truths can be spoken in ten seconds with one breath. Think of the difference in the life of a person who says: “Yes, indeed I did lie and cause you pain as a result.” This is an example of a ten second, one breath truth that would have save the person a considerable amount of time and energy.  Consider the obverse – a ten-second untruth: “I did not lie to you.” With this statement comes much hassle and strife.

Most of our truths, in the context of our lives, have the same level of importance as a 50-million dollar lawsuit. That is why it is important to learn how to speak the truth. The barrier most people face in speaking the truth is that they do not wish to do it in a way that hurts other people and stirs up trouble. I have learned a few simple techniques and principles that can make the process much easier.

First: When you speak the unarguable, people usually do not argue. If I say to you, “My stomach feels queasy,” you would have a difficult time arguing with me. If I say, “You make me sick to my stomach,” you would probably find plenty to argue with me about in that sentence. The difference is the intention. If I say, “My stomach feels queasy,” my intention is to reveal my inner experience. If I say, “You make me sick to my stomach,” my intention is to blame you for my experience.

In speaking difficult truths so that people thank you afterwards, the trick is to reveal your inner experience and stay out of the area of blame. Positive communication in relationship is mostly brought about by saying unarguable things and never by blaming. It is possible to communicate the most difficult truths in this new way, so that people understand and are grateful that you shared your feelings with them.

The Technique

There are 3 major feeling zones. Try and speak first from those feeling-zones:

Zone 1 is made up of your neck, shoulders and mid-back. When you are feeling tense in this zone, it is because you are holding onto anger you have not expressed.

Zone 2 is your throat and chest.  This zone tells you when you are feeling sad by signaling you with constriction (“lump in the throat”) and a sense of heaviness.

Zone 3 is your stomach and beltline area. Tension and racy- queasy sensations (“butterflies”) tell you that you are scared.

Let us assume say you want to begin an argument with your spouse. Your main complaints may be: that he never helps around the house, he is barely home, he has a perfect record of forgetting your birthday and he is unwilling to make the same commitments to the relationship that you do.

Scenario One: In a heated moment, you say to him: “I’m not going out to dinner with you because I am very angry with you. You are a total disappointment. You’re lazy, disrespectful and commitment-phobic.”

Would he be likely to thank you for sharing this “truth” with him? Probably not. He would probably argue with all three of your labels for him. You have provided him with a perfect way to avoid learning anything from your communication, because you have communicated it in arguable terms.

Scenario Two: Gently and with respect, you say to him: “For a long time I’ve been feeling sad and disappointed. I can feel it right now in my chest, and I am certain that even you can hear it in the sound of my voice. I don’t think I’m getting what I so much want in our relationship. Right now, I feel very frustrated and although I’m scared to go out to dinner with you because in your eyes it may seem as though I ‘got over it’ – I think I still would rather face that fear together with you than continue to feel what I’ve been experiencing these last few weeks.”

There is no guarantee he will thank you for speaking those truths, but I assume that he may not argue with you as quickly as he would in the first scenario.

With regard to thanks, I have witnessed many situations in which people felt upset at hearing unarguable truths. However, once they registered the impact of the communication, learned from it and after having digested it thoroughly, they often thank and appreciate the speaker for being courageous enough to speak the truth in a way that did not produce an argument.