|Posted on July 10, 2016 at 10:40 AM|
It’s not unusual to hear people, generally with pride in their voice, claim that they “speak their mind” or that they “tell it like it is”. Often this is in response to having said something hurtful, or at the very least abrasive and opinionated. Given that I am prone to encouraging people to speak their truth, I decided to spend some time exploring the nuances of stating our own version of reality aloud to others who may be hurt, disappointed, or angry as a result. What pieces of the exchange are our responsibility? How do we decide to speak or not? Is there a time when it is a healthier choice to remain silent? What are the criteria? How do we know if this is a truth or our truth? That’s a lot to figure out each time we have a conversation.
So let’s start with the paradigm that truly, any truth, is our truth. Truths are simply beliefs that we have acquired on our life paths, and each of us has walked a different way and had different experiences. So that thing that you are absolutely positively beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt certain about? Yes, that is your truth and you are welcome to claim it, just don’t make the assumption that it is anyone else’s truth. And be willing to honor their truth to the extent you wish to have yours accepted. This is a way to avoid the pitfalls of trying to defend or convince, and encourages us to be in listen mode, which is where every conversation should begin. From this foundation, for me anyway, the choices get a little more blurry.
For example, how do we know when to speak and when to simply breathe and let go? What are the criteria for deciding that you must confront someone about an issue? One of the first questions I ask myself is, “What was their intention?” If you know this person to be kind hearted or believe they care about you, is it possible you are taking something personally or reading malice into an innocent comment or act? We have all said or done something that had consequences we couldn’t or didn’t foresee. Is this a time for grace? Will addressing the situation make it clearer, cleaner and healthier in the future? If the answer is yes, go for it every time.
The second area to explore is our own intention. Why do we want to make this statement? Do we want to prove we’re right, or more to the point, that the other person was in the wrong? Are we seeking attention, vindication, or sympathy? Do we feel hurt and we want them to know? Or do we want to simply feel better about ourselves by judging another to be wrong? These are not easy questions to ask oneself, and the tendency is for our ego to jump to our rescue by justifying our words. And this is exactly how we end up ruminating for days, weeks, and decades over perceived hurts and old wounds. It’s why, when we do speak, our harsh or hurtful words may have little or nothing to do with the situation at hand, but instead be a result of a build up over time.
The flip side of this is that we do need to verbally address what matters to us. We need to state our beliefs on topics that matter. We need to gently teach people that we are not doormats to be walked upon, and that we need to receive as well as give respect. We need to speak up for those who have no voice. And sometimes we need to offer an alternative perspective. We do need to give our inner voice a chance to be heard.
So to speak or not to speak, that is the question only you can answer. Only you can examine your intention. Only you can choose to see their truth as well as your own. Only you can know if you are coming from a place of hurt or peace. Only you can know if it is your soul or your ego that is seeking to be heard.