Do you speak the truth… at home, with your friends, at work, among your family members? When a facilitator asked that question at a training I recently attended, my answer was clear: sometimes. I was not admitting to being a liar, nor am I in the habit of telling half-truths. I was expressing my belief that sometimes people can’t handle the truth, so I don’t even bother to share it. Telling the truth would cause more trouble than good.
A few days later, I lay in corpse pose, ready to relax at the beginning of a yoga class. The instructor began reading from the yoga sutras about satya (truth). My ears perked up as I listened to the wisdom of this ancient proverb. Moving through the rest of the class, my mind kept coming back to the question of Truth.
I thought about a conversation I had earlier that day with a client involving a staff member. I saw a significant flaw in how the person was currently performing her job functions, and wanted to help her see where she had room for improvement. The client didn’t want me to focus on what went wrong; I was asked to brainstorm solutions moving forward with the person.
From my perspective, the truth was that the organization needed her at her best, and that would only come when she was reflective about her practice and how she could improve. But my client was concerned that she would feel ripped apart and thus humiliated if I addressed her failings in a direct manner. In this case, the truth would be more damaging.
I know my truth. The client knows another truth. And the employee knows her truth. I have resolved to keep speaking my truth but to do so in a manner that is palatable to the person receiving it. Speaking the truth with kindness sometimes means breaking it down into bite-size portions that can be digested one at a time. It also usually means focusing on all the positives before addressing the one or two areas for improvement. I once heard someone say you need to say nine positive things to a person for every negative you share.
Yet, that isn’t enough. The yoga sutras go much further in their teachings:
Often we mistake our truth for the prejudices that are formed through the colored lenses of our minds. Our words are then formed based on this formula. When our minds and hearts remain expanded, truth shines through.
Was my assessment of the employee’s performance a fact or an opinion? As much empirical evidence that I can state to support my claim, I also know that my opinion is colored by my values. I believe it takes a particular set of characteristics to perform that job function well —one I have previously held. So maybe, what I was really trying to say is she isn’t doing the job the way that I would. She is okay with that. Her boss (my client) is okay with that. So, maybe I should be as well.
As you move through your weekend, consider whether or not you are speaking the truth to those around you. Is the truth your opinion, or is it fact? Will hearing it benefit the other person, or will it make the situation worse? Is the truth you speaking based on your previous experiences and values, or have you examined yourself deeply enough to separate fact from opinion? These are just some questions to consider when determining when—and how—to speak the truth.
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.