Speak the truth – this act of communication is fraught with difficulty, emotion, fear, lack of skill and is something we are rarely taught how to do well!
In our work with developing conscious communication skills as part of advanced leadership development we teach the following communication formula.
Speak the truth – speak out about what is present
The three are all interdependent with each other. When one exists, all exist. They are completely dependent on our ability to be in the listening – or in other words, to be fully present. The “you” in “listen until you no longer exist” is the part of us that is always noisy. The ego part of us – the one that wants to be right, liked, good, smart, attractive, better than……
In this article we will cover the aspect of this communication formula which discusses speaking the truth.
The reason I classify speaking the truth as the forgotten art of speaking about what is present is that we were born with the skill, and through years of learning to be polite, correct, and diplomatic, we have forgotten how to do this.
I’m not advocating that we say to someone, point blank: “You’re fat!”, although this may be true.
Speaking of what is true is about stating what is in the space to be said; in order to be able to do this, we first need to be in the space, in the listening, and not in our own head coming up with all of the right answers.
For example, you are conversing with Mary, and have an intuition that Mary doesn’t understand what you are trying to explain. Speaking what is true would be saying, “Mary, I have a sense that you are not following me -that maybe I am not explaining this in a way that makes sense to you?” Mary may not be confused. She may be in disagreement. In which case she is likely to state that, and we can proceed with our conversation.
I may notice that I am not feeling comfortable about the conversation. I may not know exactly what is making me feel uncomfortable. Speaking what is true would be to say: “There is something about this conversation that is making me uncomfortable -I am not sure what that is.” We can either register that and proceed, or explore my discomfort and then proceed.
I may be nervous about having a particular conversation with you. There may be a lot of emotion involved on both sides and I may want to speak with clean intent and not provoke more upset. I could say: “I am feeling very nervous about this conversation, as I feel that you and I have not been able to communicate without creating more upset for both of us –and I would really like this conversation to be different. I would really like this conversation to pave the way for both of us to be able to move forward in a positive way.” This statement needs to be true for you or it won’t resonate. And it still doesn’t guarantee the outcome you desire. However, you will have been honest and taken responsibility for owning your “truth” in the conversation/relationship.
In a sales context, if you and I are talking, and you are really interested in what I do and genuinely show interest in my services from a professional point of view, and I genuinely feel that I would love to work with you, I could simply say: “I would love to coach you!”
This is not forcing myself on you, or being aggressive. It is simply stating what is present. If you say no, I probably wasn’t listening until I no longer exist – my ego desire may have stepped in and overridden my hearing, or the timing may not be right for you. However, because I have been completely present to the listening, it is not personal. You are not rejecting me. You are saying no to the professional relationship and will very likely provide a reason that is true for you.
The more we use the formula, the more likely it is that the communication for both parties can open up and be grounded in truth. And the more likely it is to be safe for both parties.
We do have to be mindful of how we are stating what is true.
Speaking of our feelings, our observations, our senses, our gut instincts – being responsible for our own experiences – is essential. Being willing to be wrong or off the mark is also important.
If we stay in “listening until I no longer exist”, we will immediately let go of this need to be right or wrong. I can’t be in my ego state if I am in “listening until I no longer exist”.
The above examples illustrate the very small acts of truth telling – no less profound than the bigger ones and just as important. They are also really good ways to practice. You will know that you are doing well because first you will hear the truths — be completely present. Then you will be able to speak them.
The bigger truths – stating the unstated, require a level of listening that moves from low altitude to high altitude. Let me explain: the old saying “you can’t see the forest for the trees”, means that when we are in the forest, looking at the forest from ground level, we see lots of single trees. When we look at the forest from the level of clouds, our view is different. When we look at the forest from the level of a spacecraft, we have another view. Similarly, when we look at the forest from the level of an ant, we will have yet another view. All views are right AND all views are very different and partial. (For more on this see Integral Theory- a brief overview)
Complex truths require altitudinal perspective. Altitudinal perspective requires the ability to really transcend ego and be able to listen from a clean and detached space.
This is why external facilitation and coaching can be so vital. If there is no agenda, there are no emotional strings, then we can be detached. Our view is clean and clear. However, we also need to be aware that as the observer, we will always bring our own particular lens through which we view the world to the transaction
For instance, if I am a frog, I see with frog eyes. A bee, with bee’s eyes. A bat, with bat eyes. A fundamentalist anything, I see through the eyes of fundamentalism. I will always and only be able to see through the eyes of my current world view.
Really complex truths require an evolved human being to be able to be present to the truth. They see the patterns and pathways and are able to remove the excess story, emotions and verbiage from the complexity in order to reach the simplicity on the other side.
Naming truth stops the chatter. For example, there is a great story about a Japan Airlines pilot, Captain Kohei Asoh, who, on November 22nd, 1968, landed his DC-10 jet, with 96 passengers and 11 crew members, two and a half miles out in San Francisco Bay, but in nearly exact compass line with the runway. Apparently the landing was so perfect that many passengers didn’t even realise that they had landed on water. No one was injured, all were rescued, and the plane was salvaged with minimal damage. Regardless of how well he landed, the fact of the matter was that Captain Asoh, a veteran pilot of approximately 10,000 hours of flying, landed his plane two and a half miles out in the bay, irritating a lot of people in the process.
Prior to the hearing there was a huge build up of public debate, with many believing that the hearing would go for many months to determine who was to blame. Captain Asoh was the first witness at the hearing. While the world watched, the first question was asked: “Can you tell us, Captain Asoh, how you managed to land the plane two and a half miles out in San Francisco Bay in perfect compass line with the runway?” To which Captain Asoh is reported to have replied. “As you Americans say, Asoh *%$#ed up.”
The hearing was almost immediately concluded and Captain Asoh continued to fly for Japan Airlines until his retirement.
Is there not a part of you that yearns for this level of truth? A part that wants to reach a truth about you – and wants to hear others speak their truth?
Just imagine if Bill Clinton had spoken the truth? Or Richard Nixon? Trump speaks so many lies that it is almost impossible to imagine he speaks any truth.
Imagine if our fallen sports heroes had the same courage as Captain Asoh? Would we find a place to forgive them for being human, and for falling down, as we all have done, and will do again?
The truth will set you free….and it lives in the present!
For more on this subject, see the ebook, Speak the Truth, which provides a 7 step process to have the most difficult conversation without harming the other.