Can You Handle the Truth??
This past week, I asked my favorite question to a new group (feel free to use it).
If you could star in any movie from your childhood, what would it be and what character would you play?
I assume that people think I’m sizing them up and trying to get a read on their inner psyche and upbringing. In reality I try to create connections and lines of communication between our answers and past experiences.
Typically I’m not fazed by the responses, but this time I was shocked by one — Jack Nicholson’s character in the Shining. Here was this person acknowledging their desire to live out their dark side. Hmm, that’s freaky and awesome at the same time. How brave to share this!
It then got me thinking about my favorite Jack Nicholson movie, A Few Good Men. Of course we then started quoted the movie.
“I want the truth!”
“YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!”
Now I probably couldn’t handle the truth as delivered by Colonel Jessup, but it got me thinking… can we really handle the truth? Do we really want the truth?
The truth can hurt. It can devastate and destroy our sense of trust, well-being, and self-esteem. Do we really want to know what people think of us or say about us? If you’re like me, it’s extremely hurtful to know that you are misunderstood or not liked. Sure you can shrug it off and say it doesn’t bother you, but let’s be honest, it still hurts even if you don’t care for the person saying it.
We so badly want to avoid the discomfort and try to fix it or avoid it, but what if we could listen for the gift in the nugget(s) of truth?
I want you to think about the last time you told someone the truth. What were your intentions in telling them? What was your desired outcome? Did you get that desired outcome? Why or why not?
I’m a firm believer that the truth should be delivered gently and delicately. Words can sting and stay with us forever, so chose your delivery, tone and wording carefully. Just because you say, “I’m doing this as your friend” or “This is constructive feedback,” it doesn’t give you a pass to be cruel.
Let’s go back to your intention in the communication. If you care about someone and want to help them, come from an open place where you can give them the safe space to uncover their faults. They may not be ready at the time, but if you’re firing the shots of criticism, you will be the one to blame in their eyes when their feelings are hurt.
Remember this principle: You are only in control and in charge of yourself. Under no circumstances can you fix or change someone else. What you can do is control your language, environment, timing and tone. Think about how you would want to be spoken to if you were in their shoes.
If you’re on the receiving end, it’s super uncomfortable to hear unflattering news about yourself. I recently had this happen and wanted to hide under my seat. I was in a moving car and there was no way I was getting out of it. I felt trapped and wanted to get out of there, but I was stuck and decided to listen. Everything that was said true and there was nothing I could do but listen to it. I felt the fireball build in my chest, but rather than lash out and fight for my honor, I decided to breathe through it. I wanted to sit in the uncomfortableness of it and get to the root of why I was so upset.
My realization was that I am extremely uncomfortable in group situations. I can network the crap out of the room or dig deep with people on a one-on-one basis, but when it comes to new people, I immediately feel like I’m being judged and put under a microscope. Where some people retreat, I do the opposite and become somewhat obnoxious and can say judgmental and hurtful things — not the best thing for a life coach. Sure it’s the exact opposite of what my desired outcome is, but insecurity triggers will make you do crazy things when your anxiety rises. (This is not an excuse, but a realization of behavior patterns.)
The truth delivered in a compassionate way gave me the insight to dig into the piece of me I had been avoiding. I’m still uncomfortable in new groups, but I am aware of my triggers of insecurity. It’s not a complete fix, but it is a step in the right direction.
The truth while it can hurt, doesn’t need to create lasting scars and open wounds. If you’re the messenger, be very conscious of the audience, the energy, the temperament and the triggers. Ask two questions for every statement and give people the space of silence to process. (For me it takes 12–24 hours to fully process a heavy topic). Most importantly be compassionate and exercise empathy — think about yourself in their shoes, but also understand that no one thinks, sees, hears and believes in exactly the same things as you.