You know what’s funny?
You can easily see all the stupid things other people do—but often you have trouble seeing your own stupid errors.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to miss your own mistakes – even if your errors are right smack in front of your nose—or smack on your cheek.
If you have a smear of ink on your cheek, you won’t be able to see it yourself.
You will only know about your cheek stain if/when an honest friend tells you.
The same thing goes if you have a problem with being too cheeky.
Someone’s gotta tell you!
Personally, I want to be alerted if I’m walking around too inky or too cheeky.
For this reason, one of my favorite quotes is:
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 and intimacy-filled life, then why do you find yourself avoiding telling the truth to someone?
Why don’t you speak up when someone is bugging you?
Or let someone know when they did something which hurts?
Or even share an intuition you feel about a changing closeness – or some weird intuitive feeling you might have that someone is jealous or mad at you?
These superficial relationships then wind up feeling unsatisfying, uncomfortable, unsafe – and probably somewhat lonely.
So why do we sometimes not bother to speak up?
Here are 5 reasons – which I share below.
Plus, afterwards I share 9 tips for how to be a loving “front stabber” – and share a needed courageous dialogue.
1. The non-speaker-upper feels keeping quiet is the best path to be liked
Yep, the non-speaker-upper foolishly feels that by keeping a big, high wall between the other person and the truth, they will then stay closer to him or her. The irony is obvious: Without honesty and its incumbent vulnerability, the two of you will never create true closeness an
2. The non-speaker-upper feels superior by keeping people in the dark
In other words, on some level the non-speaker-upper knows that by not giving the other person the opportunity to know and correct his or her misbehavior, they get to maintain a lesser view of that person. And the non-speaker-upper would rather be right than make the relationship be right. And/or the non-speaker-upper would rather keep that person in the dark, so they can shine brighter.
3. The non-speaker-upper actually dislikes change
The non-speaker-upper prefers to cling to the status quo and their learned comfort zone for an unsatisfying relationship – rather than put in the required effort for a relationship upgrade.
4. The non-speaker-upper dislikes vulnerability
Being vulnerable or seeing someone else be vulnerable isn’t easy for the non-speaker-upper. Meaning? They derive some emotional safety benefits from remaining separate. Maybe they grew up in a home where people did not speak up – and kept a veil of separateness – this is their learned familiar.
5. The non-speaker-upper has low self-esteem
Basically, the non-speaker-upper worries people will look down on what they have to say – they can’t fully own their feelings and opinions – so they don’t speak up.
6. The non-speaker-upper fears being verbally attacked for sharing
The non-speaker-upper has been verbally attacked in the past (either by someone else or by the person involved) and worries they will re-experience this emotional pain.
Do you feel any of the above relates to your choosing to be a non-speaker-upper – or someone else being a non-speaker-upper with you?
If so, here are some tools to help encourage a “courageous dialogue” – and thereby increase intimacy and happiness.
(Note: Courageous Dialogues are best done in person – not by email – because body language and nuances can be lost or misinterpreted.)
1. 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 – what I call a courageous dialogue? Are you in aplace where you can talk openly and not self-consciously?
2. Avoid harsh startups
Relationship expert Dr. John Gottman says he can predict 96% of the time how a conversation will end based on its first 3 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. Also, it helps to create what I call “a compliment sandwhich.” Begin with a compliment, sharing something you appreciate about the other person, so they believe in your good intentions. Then at the close of your courageous dialogue, end with a compliment, so they leave the talk feeling safely loved – instead of unsafely judged.
3. 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—and truly stay open to other view points. Get ready to be open to thinking the following phrase: “Hmmm…maybe I’m wrong about my point of view after all.”
4. Use “I” instead of “you”
Try to use sentences that begin with “I” instead of “You” – so you stay focused on sharing how you feel – rather than insulting the other person. Remember your point of view is just one point of view in a universe of many perspectives. If you find yourself trying to shove your “inflexible truth” forcefully down the other person’s throat, pause and reflect upon your intentions. Are you honestly sharing your “truth” to help the other person – or are you simply trying to harm them because of deeper issues you have? 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 – so you strengthen the relationship, not weaken it.
5. 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.
6. 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!”
7. Don’t generalize
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.
8. Make Sure You Create a Double-breaded Compliment Sandwich
Once you’re done with your honest conversation, be sure to close with that second slice of a compliment. Remind the other person what you adore about them – and how much you value their friendship – so they feel safe and nurtured.
9. Follow up within 48 hours
Sometime within the next 48 hours, follow up with this other person and make sure he or she is feeling loved—not judged—by all you shared.
Share below! What’s something which comes to your mind and heart when you read about “courageous dialogues”? Share your personal story or a personal happiness tool!
Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.