Thursday, September 10, 2009

The thing about honesty...

Brooke –
I need to ask about this because so often we are asked for ‘an honest opinion’ or ‘tell me honesty if’, etc.

This happened recently with a close friend. She had been to visit my home and we had a nice weekend. Upon her return home, she wrote and said “I had the distinct feeling you are not happy with me. I felt it when I left your place but it was really strong when I woke up. Am I imagining things or am I correct? Did I do something wrong while I was there?”

This friend has always said one of the things she loves best about me my HONESTY. So after much consideration, I replied--

“Now how to answer your question… I am so glad you worded it “not happy with me” rather than mad or angry. I have to be honest BUT keep in mind it is only a small thing which is why it was never brought up. On the way home from the restaurant – the conversation went to Ford Motor Company – trashing transmissions, power-trains, etc….. I did not feel it was appropriate to ‘knock down’ a company your hosts’ worked for and are collecting a pension from. As you know we are “True Ford Blue” and the comments we not appreciated. Since it truly was a small thing – I let it go and asked my hubby to do the same. Nothing to worry about – it is now in the past! You asked so I had to be honest (something that you’ve always admired) otherwise it would have never been mentioned.”

I did not hear from this person for 2 days, so I sent a note asking if I should be worried. Her response was “No, not to worry. Some things are just better dropped than continued. I think that's one of them. (((HUGS)))”

Looks like honesty wasn’t something she wanted to hear. From her response, she doesn’t agree with how we felt. When feelings are hurt (like our case), it’s how we perceived the comment rather than why they made the comment. Am I right?

When I got her response back, I was surprised that it didn’t say “Oh sorry you felt that way” or something. Her response leads me to believe that she doesn’t see our “side”, isn’t the least bit remorseful and is now maybe a little mad at me for being honest. Is that your take? In my opinion, feelings are genuine and can neither be “right” or “wrong” – they just are!!

I guess my question to you is – people really don’t want honesty do they? It would have been far better for the relationship to have just replied – NO nothing is wrong! And move on.

Honest Hannah

Dear Honest Hannah,

How bold and beautiful of you to put yourself out there for such an important and often confusing topic… your experience and example illustrates what so many of us experience. So go you. You are officially a life teacher. And PS. Thank you so much for sharing your own personal emails- they’re really going to help us get down to the nitty gritty… in a good way… I hope.

So there is the cliché “honesty is the best policy” and I agree for the most part. But in SoapBox-World there are 2 main categories of honesty. Take ‘em if you like, leave ‘em if you don’t. First is outer-world-honesty…the details, specifics, quotes, things that happen in the situation, etc. and second is inner-world-honesty…the feelings, emotions, things that go on inside of us, etc.

Outer-world-honesty is way easier to express. This happened, she said this, he said that…bla bla. It’s inner-world-honesty that can get sticky and get us all tripped up on what honesty really looks like... let’s use your experience to illustrate.

In the outer world, your friend said negative things about an organization you are invested in, which seemed inappropriate to you at the time, under the circumstances. OK. It’s so great that you shared that with her because outer-world-honesty really does clear up some confusion sometimes, right? So that’s fabulous. But there’s more…

It seems to me, that although you were honest about the outer-world details of the situation, you were far from honest about the follow up you were hoping for, and about your inner-world experience. You didn’t lie my love, you just left out a few things. You didn’t tell her your feelings were hurt, you didn’t tell her you wanted to know if she understood where you were coming from. You didn’t let her know that you were hoping for a response. You didn’t tell her you wanted her to say she was sorry. Sometimes we don’t share our inner-world honesty because we aren’t convinced our feelings are justified or reasonable, so we say things like… “Nothing to worry about – it is now in the past”

So, what happened was…. Your friend said something hurtful and asked you what had happened. Then you emailed the specifics, like what she said and when, but gave her permission to simply move on. Then, when she said ok, you were upset and confused. So when you say you were honest... you weren’t completely honest darlin’, right? And it led to you being more hurt than you were in the first place.

The thing about honesty is that it’s great and helpful and delicious and organic and amazing…if you are actually being honest…like, fully. And sitting with whatever happens as a result. The complete honest answer would have stated the outer-world details and then been followed by your inner-world feelings and experiences of the situation.

Here is an example of how you can include your inner world honesty: “There was a comment made about Ford in a negative light. You are my friend and I care so much about you and our friendship. I was hurt and upset about the comment because I didn’t feel noticed for the work and effort my family and I have put into Ford. I know it may seem like a small detail, but I also know you will understand where I’m coming from. I really appreciate you initiating this conversation.”…and so on

The most important thing to keep in mind when expressing inner world honesty; use way way way more “I” statements that “You” statements. “You” statements should be kept to a crazy minimum and only used in a positive light. No one wants to have a finger pointing in their face, be cut down, put down, lectured, or made to feel bad. If they feel that way at all, your communication will probably be misunderstood, unheard, or unread all together. If you remind your friends, family, or whoever you have a challenge with that they are important to you (which they are) and you care about the relationship you have with them (which you do) and that you have confidence that they are the kind of person who will understand your point of view…then they will be standing on confident solid ground and are more prepared to hear what you have to say. Don’t lie to them, of course… but just remember your relationship and all of the great things about that person…and say them.

So many of us, in a hurtful situation, just sit back and wait for the other person to miraculously know what’s going on in our inner-world. We get the crazy idea that others know our buttons, how they are pushed, and when they push them. We convince ourselves that others know the depth of our stories and our emotions and what affects us and to what level. Our feelings are not floating in the air for anyone to see, to understand, to respond to…unless we share them.

So, we have found ourselves here. At this place of different levels or shall we say, worlds of honesty. Sometimes, it feels best to only include one world. Such as, leaving the details out and just talking about how you and the other person feel. Or, sometimes it’s really just a silly misunderstanding and you can forgo the deep thoughts and clear things up with a quick detail. But, most of the time, a balance of both is necessary.

Remember, the most important person to be fully honest with…yourself. And to me, the only way to do that is to ask lot’s of questions and as always…get curious about yourself. Honest Hannah, you done good.


Oh, and PS to you and everyone… your best bet is to make some notes to yourself, and then if it’s an option, call or meet a friend in person to talk about things. Email, text, etc. can get confusing and may lead to a greater risk of being misunderstood. Just food for thought…

Send your questions to!

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