As parents, we expect the truth from our children. As a spouse, we expect the truth from our partner. If we are part of an organization, we expect the truth from our peers or management. When things happen that are not fully explained, doubt creeps in. Trust begins to break down. The more time that passes, the more difficult it becomes to fully trust again.
We expect the truth from every person unless we think it will be unpleasant. We say we want the truth and become angry when it does not meet our expectations. At times, there are few things more painful than accepting reality. We hear the truth and explode with anger or tears. What we put into the world is what we get back! If you want the truth, you must regulate your response. This does not mean that when your child admits to stealing or smoking, you passively accept their actions. It is wise, however, to celebrate the truth. The truth is rooted in trust. If your child, spouse, or friend trusts that you will be just and civil in your response, they will be more likely to speak the truth.
There are a few strategies that you can take to help encourage others to speak the truth in your presence.
This is where we most often fall short. We tell some of the truth but leave out the portion that might have consequences or that others won’t want to hear. If you want the truth, you must speak the truth. There is another person you must be honest with if you expect the truth. The other person is you. There is nothing that can release the bonds of suffering like radical acceptance of the truth. We suffer from denial far more than we suffer from anything else.
When someone comes to you with the truth, seek to understand their situation by asking questions.
What was going through their mind at the time of this decision?
What would have been an alternative response?
Any thoughts on how to resolve the situation?
Asking questions allows the person to work through the situation in their own mind and discover alternatives. It is also an opportunity to listen in an effort to understand what led them to the action they took. The major key to receiving the truth is through a sincere desire to understand. It is through understanding that we can instruct or coach. If disciplinary action is necessary due to the severity of the infraction, it will be easier for the other person to accept when they feel understood.
Regulate Your Response
Too often, we explode when our children come to us with the truth. We say things like “what were you thinking” or “why in the world would you do that”. We question their intelligence and break them down. Why would they tell you the truth? If you want to build a relationship of truth with others, regulate your response. Learn to manage your emotions and temper your response.
Manage Your Expectations
Often the standards to which we hold others are higher than the standards to which we hold ourselves. It is only acceptable to hold others to high standards if we have clearly shown and instructed them on the standards expected. It comes back to grounding ourselves in reality. We can’t expect people to read our mind. People will respond consistently with your expectations when you articulate and demonstrate those expectations.
Be honest with yourself first. Share the truth with everyone else if you want others to share the truth with you. Listen and ask questions to understand the situation and the other person’s perspective. We must lead by example and be honest in expressing our expectations of others. The more truthful we are with others about our reality, the more likely they will be to share their reality with us.