How to be More Honest in Your Communication
I’m not calling you a bald-faced liar. But we all practise deception in our communication with those who matter to us, from co-workers to loved ones. Sometimes they’re sins of omission rather than commission. But all those deceptions keep us from getting what we really need.
In this episode, I explore:
- The difference between I-It relationships and I-Thou relationships
- How to become more human and better fulfilled
- The importance of timing in communications
- How feelings impact our conversations – and what to do about them
- How to meet your deepest needs through improved communication
Watch the video, or download it as a free podcast on iTunes and see below for key takeaways and extended notes.
Or you can listen to it online here.
Most of us don’t know how to communicate honestly and effectively. Sometimes we don’t view the other person’s needs as being equally important to ours; other times we aren’t tuned in to our own needs. The effects can be damaging to everyone involved, and to the relationships themselves. In this podcast episode, I present tips to help you be more honest and respectful – of yourself and others – in your communication. You’ll learn how to get what you want by properly identifying your needs and then asking that they be met.
So I want you to be more honest in your communication. Now don’t get me wrong. I know you’re not an out-and-out barefaced liar. I know you’re not practicing deception around there, but, actually, I think you probably are practicing deception because I think we all, in our communication with those that are important to us, be that at work, be that outside work, practice these small deceptions. Sometimes they’re more sins of omission rather than commission. You know, “I just won’t mention that.” “I just won’t have that conversation.” “I’ll just let that slide.”
I understand why you do that because I do that as well all the time. I come up to a more challenging conversation and rather than be courageous enough to have that conversation, I back away; I kind of find excuses to say, “Not now” or “I probably just imagined it” or “Why don’t I wait for another time?” And this is a call for you and it’s a call for me as well to say actually, have the courage of your convictions. Have the courage and respect of the person you’re working with to be more honest in those conversations.
I remember reading a distinction from the philosopher Martin Buber some years ago, and he says there’s a difference between an I-It and I-Thou relationship. I-It is when you kind of stop seeing the other person as fully human like you are, and you see them as an object in some way. They’ve become diminished a little bit because of the way you’re tracking them and seeing them.
I-Thou is that precious state where you actually get to engage with that other person, not as the label you’ve given them, not as the dynamic that you’ve put around the way you’re interacting, but as that actual other person. And what Buber would say is that I-Thou relationship is a relationship we all strive for because that’s us at our most human and our most vulnerable and our most fulfilled.
So I know that’s all a bit high-falutin’ but I want to get us into this okay, so what does that mean in terms of you being a little more honest in your communications? I’ve got a few tips that I think might just help. The first place I’d start is to say wait but don’t wait too long. I think sometimes in our communication what happens is we’re triggered by a situation and before we know it, we’re into it, we’re yapping away, maybe being snipey, being sarcastic, being angry. Whatever that might be.
And sometimes, of course, the situation happened and actually we don’t say anything then and then the moment passes and then we wait a bit longer, and actually we never quite get around to saying the thing that needs to be said. And it can either go away or often it just lies there slightly festering, slightly tainting the relationship. So wait but don’t wait too long. Don’t react immediately. Take a breath if necessary. That may be the only pause you need: a breath and a grounding of yourself. Or you may need a little longer, but wait, but not too long.
The second thing I want you to think about is think how you feel. And, you know, I’ve talked about this before in other podcasts around, how challenging that is as a command to me. I’m very much a head person. I like to think things. I like to drift out in the future, and to actually bring back and kind of reconnect with what’s actually going on in the moment for me, how am I feeling in my body, which of the five core emotions am I feeling? Mad, sad, glad, ashamed, afraid? They’re different from the five emotions that showed up in new Pixar movie but you get—they’re the same basic ones: Mad, sad, glad, ashamed, afraid.
Here’s what I know: You don’t have to share how you’re feeling. Some of you will be more comfortable with that than others. But knowing how you’re feeling will actually inform you more wisely as to the conversation that needs to be had. It’s a paradox but actually the people who are less connected with how they feel actually end up thinking less rationally about the situation. So the feeling piece does a couple of things. It gets you more human, gets you into that possibility of the I-Thou conversation, but actually gets you more clear-headed as to what’s going on and what you might want to say to that other person.
The third thing, and it’s the third and the fourth thing, I want to combine these two together, it’s to figure out what you want. I think a lot of these conversations stall because we’re not entirely clear what the request is that we want to make. What do we want to ask for or what do we want to say so the other person can hear it?
And actually I’m going to ask you to go a little deeper than this. You know, Marshall Rosenberg who created this concept called “non-violent communications” says (indiscernible) ones, that’s the surface request. But behind all ones are some really fundamental needs. And I think there’s wisdom in going, “Do you normally connect with what you want but that deeper need? What do I mean by those deeper needs? Well, they’re things like connection and honestly and safety and joy and peace and autonomy and well-being and meaning. These are all the deeper needs we have as human beings that often are foundational to the more surface ones that we have.
So this is kind of a three-part tip actually. It keeps growing. First is to get clear on what you want because it’s hard to know what to say unless you get clear on what you want, and one of the reasons you’re procrastinating or being slightly dishonest about your conversation is you’re not clear on what you want. Secondly, tap into the deeper need that that want is indicating, because actually that will give you more of a foundation, more courage to have that conversation. And then the third part is actually to make the request, to ask for what you want and ask for what you need. Very powerful. Powerful for you, powerful for the person hearing that request as well.
And I guess my final thing to say around this is all of this has sounded perhaps a little touchy-feely to you, and I guess the final point I would make is don’t mistake for a moment this stuff being soft skills or touchy-feely. This is hard. This is hard work but the benefit you get is you to get to show off to the people that matter to you, the people who you’d like to influence, the people you’d like to build relationships that matter with. And actually build that as an I-Thou relationship rather than an I-It relationship. And whilst that’s a difficult thing to do, the benefits are immense.