How to tell the truth

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Telling the truth is an art.  Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Telling the truth is an extremely difficult thing to do.  It is an art, a bit like painting.  It involves several skills.

Here are some of them.

CHOOSE A GOOD SUBJECT

Just like an artist, you have to choose your subject.  Pick something you love.  Pick something you really, truly want to explore and understand.  Be prepared to get stuck in.  In choosing a subject, you are beginning an intimate relationship with part of the universe: choose well, stay focused, and don’t stop exploring until you feel you have done your subject justice.

CHOOSE A GOOD MEDIUM

Also like an artist, you have to decide how to express your approach to your subject.  You have certain tools and materials: words, facial expressions, body language, social conventions… your job is to make best use of these tools, and to get better and better at using them, until you have found a form of communication that really carries the story you want to share.

REACH YOUR AUDIENCE

Any good artist finds a way of making an impact on their audience.  This can be by ‘leaning forward’ (doing things to grab their attention), or ‘leaning back’ (doing things to soften their resistance).  Either way, the aim is to engage your chosen audience in something life-enhancing; to make it easy for an impactful relationship to happen.

LISTEN TO THE RESPONSE

A good artist takes great interest in the response of their audience.  Great comedians let their act be shaped by audience response.  What went down well?  What fell on deaf ears?  What caused an impact?  What was misunderstood?  Part of truth-telling is to take responsiblity for clearing up misunderstanding, to check what the audience can and cannot relate to.  Truth is two-way.

MAKE IT HELPFUL

A final piece of advice: make your art helpful to the being you are helping with the truth.  (Note: if you are talking with yourself, or are in therapy, then that person is you!)  That being, in the end, is the most important person in the room.  If they are moved, then you have probably done your job.  If they internalise the work, and can take it with them in their heart, then you have certainly done your job.

AN EXERCISE

If you want to tell the truth today, then, before you speak, ask yourself:

  1. Am I talking about what matters?
  2. Am I using the right words?
  3. Am I reaching the other?
  4. Am I taking account of the other’s response?
  5. Am I helping?
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SUMMARY

Telling the truth is difficult.

It involves having a sense of what is important right now, and then choosing forms of expression that respect and match that.  It involves reaching other people in two-way, equal, responsive relationships.  And it involves being genuinely helpful to everyone who needs help.

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