You know what’s funny? People can easily see all the stupid things other people do—but you have trouble seeing your own stupid errors. Despite the fact that your error is right smack in front of your nose—or even smack on your cheek. For example: If you have a smear of ink on your cheek, you won’t be able to see it yourself. You will know only when an honest friend tells you. The same thing goes if you have a problem with being too cheeky.
Personally, I want to be alerted if I’m walking around too inky or cheeky. For this reason, one of my favorite quotes is, “A friend is someone who stabs you in the front!” Some of my best friends and my current beau are what I call “front stabbers”—loved ones who are truly, lovingly looking out for me.
If honesty really is the best policy for a happy, intimacy-filled life, then why do you sometimes find yourself avoiding telling the truth to someone or even yourself? By not sharing what’s going on deep down, you build surface-level relationships that can be lonely and unsatisfying. Yet staying mum may offer you the following perks:
You feel keeping quiet is the best path to be liked
Yep, you foolishly feel that by keeping a big, high wall between the other person and the truth, you will then stay closer to him or her. The irony is obvious: Without honesty and its incumbent vulnerability, you will never create true closeness and warmth.
You feel superior by keeping people in the dark
In other words, on some level you know that by not giving the other person the opportunity to know and correct his or her misbehavior, you get to maintain your lesser view of that person. And you’d rather be right than make the relationship be right. And/or you’d rather keep that person in the dark, so you can shine brighter.
You don’t like change
You prefer to cling to the status quo and your learned comfort zone. Enough said.
You dislike vulnerability
Being vulnerable or seeing someone else be vulnerable isn’t easy for you. Meaning? You derive some emotional safety benefits from remaining separate and lonely.
You have low self-esteem
Basically, you worry people will look down on what you have to say, so you don’t speak up.
You are keeping secrets
You recognize that by not sharing, you don’t have to change. Woo hoo! Plus, you get to keep on secretly beating yourself up about how bad a person you are for having this misbehavior—bringing you to a woo hoo number two!
With all the above in mind, I want to encourage you to start regularly sharing more gut-honest conversations with people—and thereby increase your daily intimacy and happiness.
Here are nine tips for how to start being an honest, warm, loving “front stabber” today.
Be honest with yourself about yourself first
If you want to boldly share a secret about yourself, always be sure to have a gut-honest conversation with yourself first. Ask yourself why you’ve been hiding what you’ve been hiding and name the exact emotions you feel about it—angry, resentful, hurt, embarrassed, humiliated, vulnerable, afraid, uptight, depressed. Researcher Matthew Lieberman from UCLA discovered that the simple act of recognizing your negative emotion can calm the emotion by 50 percent, because it halves your “amygdala activation” to consciously observe your emotions. When you are naming your negative emotion, double up the benefits by naming the positive emotion you want to feel—acceptance, forgiveness, surrender, empathy, warmth, love, understanding. Before you begin to reveal your truth, contemplate this positive word, over and over—as if it were a mantra—and then aim your conversation at this goal.
Pick the right time and the right place
Do you have at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted time ahead to start up an admittedly difficult “front stabbing” conversation? Are you in a place where you can talk openly and not self-consciously?
Avoid harsh startups
Relationship expert Dr. John Gottman says he can predict 96 percent of the time how a conversation will end based on its first three minutes. Hence you must never start a difficult, honest conversation with a negative attitude or negative words. Instead, you must always state up front that you care about this person—and your relationship with him or her—and that’s why you are committed to speaking truthfully. You might even try beginning with a compliment, sharing something you appreciate about them, so they believe in your good intentions.
Let the other person know it is only your truth
It is important to let the other person know your opinion is not necessarily the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Explain how you simply want to share your experience or perception, to bounce it around and hear his or her perspective. Live up to this promise. While sharing your truth, don’t focus on trying to win the other person over to agreeing with you. Focus instead on trying to have a winning relationship—or helping him/her become more of a winner in life!
Use “I” instead of “you”
You are more likely to own your point of view as just that—your microdot one person point of view. And, “In my point of view, you are being a jerk!” is not an example of a helpful “I” statement. If you find yourself trying to shove your truth forcefully down the other person’s throat, pause and reflect upon your truthful intentions. Are you honestly sharing your “truth” to help or harm the other person? Make sure your goal for open communication is never to open wounds and pour in salt. Make it your goal to always open your heart and pour in love and enlightenment.
Speak from your heart
Because your goal is to truly speak from your heart, try to emphasize and explain how the other person’s misbehavior affects your feelings, values, dreams and/or goals—or those of others you’ve seen affected by this person’s misbehavior. Basically, you want to awaken the other person to better and compassionately understand the cause/effect of his/her misbehavior—so the person will be more motivated to listen to what you’re saying and thereby change what might be unwittingly hurtful to others.
Allow for conversation
If the conversation escalates, know it’s because you’re not allowing the other person enough room to express views back. At this point, pause and allow that room—keeping in mind Stephen Covey’s helpful words: “Seek first to understand—then to be understood!”
If you are upset at this other person for something specific that he or she said/did, try not to generalize by saying, “You always do this” or “You always say that.” Generalizations tend to escalate emotional states, because they’re more vague to discuss…and less believable. Come on, be honest with yourself. A realistic “always” action is a very rare thing.
Follow up within 24 hours
Once you’re done with your honest conversation, be sure to close up by purposefully sharing all the empowering and loving benefits that bloomed from taking the time to risk being vulnerable and truthful. Then, sometime within the next 24 hours, follow up with this other person and make sure he or she is feeling loved—not judged—by all you shared.