The theme of communication seems to be recurring a lot lately. As a therapist, I see that the root of many people’s pain is ineffective communication skills. Developing stronger communication skills, at any age, improves quality of life overall, as you are better able to handle work, home, and social situations.
Today, I want to explore another barrier to effective communication—speaking your truth or, simply, talking straight.
The difference here is that you are not acting out—you are actually speaking—but you are not saying what you mean. You speak in code, meta messages, and skirt around what you actually want and then become frustrated because you are not getting what you desire.
I want you to take an honest look at your language. Do you say: “I’m really upset about something, and I’d like to talk about it,” or do you walk around acting angry. Do you express your desires by saying, “I have a simple request” or ”I need more help with ______________.” or do you expect the other person to just know? When you are angry with your partner, do you say so, or do you pick a fight about something else (again, not saying what is true but still releasing the pressure valve on your anger)?
These are all common examples of dysfunctional communication. And these behaviors sabotage any real problem solving effort since no one, including you, actually knows what is really causing the upset.
This week, I want to challenge you to talk straight.
Gaining clarity about how you feel, what you want, and what you need is the beginning of knowing how to talk straight. The next step is expressing your truth, with no need to justify, defend, or convince. You have to start every interaction with the hope that your needs will be met and a willingness to compromise. A healthy sense of self is directly connected to your ability to communicate what is true and real for you. This sense of self is not dependent on how the other person responds. The most important piece of this behavioral puzzle is you having the courage to honor you. There will always be instances where we do not get our needs met or where we do not fulfill another person’s wants from us, so learning how to gracefully say and receive “no” is also a component of straight talking.
I learned this lesson when I was about to finish graduate school at NYU to become a therapist. My father was retired and living in Florida and disliked being in New York City. I wanted him to attend my graduation ceremony but told my therapist there was no point to inviting him because he would say no. I was intimidated by my father and had a hard time communicating with him.
The therapist helped me understand that my healing would come from having the courage to honor my truth, not from whether he agreed to attend the ceremony or not. I went to visit him, and although I was shaking in my flip flops, I invited him. He said, “Oh Ter, I can’t deal with New York.” and I said, “Ok.” and then he said, “Here comes the guilt,” which shocked me and opened the door for me to talk straight for the first time with him.
I responded, “Dad, no guilt. Mom will be there, and Kath [my sister] will be there with a one-week-old baby, but neither of them are you. You are my only father. No one can ever take your place. But honestly, I understand, and I’m not mad.” That interaction liberated me and profoundly changed our relationship.
He died suddenly less than a year later, and I remain incredibly grateful I spoke straight from my heart while I had the chance.
I hope my story inspires you to take the challenge. Your happiness and the quality of your relationships to others and yourself deserve the truth.
I hope you have an amazing week and, as always, take care of you.
Love Love Love