A friend asks you a question and you cringe. If you give your honest answer, you'll probably be labeled rude, so you lie to spare her feelings and avoid conflict.
My university communications professor said, "The best communicator can always tell the truth." Lying to spare someone's feelings indicates poor communication rather than tact. Speaking truth liberates others and yourself. When you tell half-truths or lie, you betray yourself.
Here are five ways to stop being fake and start being you.
1. Tell the truth when it hurts
If a friend asks you, "Do you like my haircut?" and the answer is no, say no and then be specific. Say something such as, "I liked it better when your bangs were like this," or, " I think the last cut you had framed your face better." With helpful feedback they can, hopefully, get a better haircut next time.
That's true friendship.
2. Don't laugh if it's not funny.
Exchange that half-hearted, awkward, obligatory laugh with a statement such as, "I see how that could be funny, but for some reason it just didn't work for me." If that's unnatural for you, simply progress the conversation by telling a similar joke or story.
3. Tell kids the truth
Perceptive little children need to hear honesty from you yesterday!
That same professor of mine I mentioned earlier also said, "Is it better for your child to learn about Santa from you or from the bully down the street?" Imagine the heartbreak and confusion for the child if it's the bully down the street. You can keep Santa alive by explaining how Santa symbolizes characteristics your family believes in and that is why your family believes in Santa. Talk to your child before someone less trustworthy than you breaks the news.
Children are outstanding at observing and remembering things you would prefer they didn't. But denying those events when asked about them is deceptive and will be used against you by your child in the future. Be an example of open and honest communication, and your child will likely follow your lead.
4. Stop asking, "How are you?" if you don't mean it
"How are you?" has become the phrase to say in passing because it is commonly understood that we don't expect an actual answer. The sentiment comes from a good place, usually. But below are more genuine ways to quickly acknowledge someone.
Also, nonverbally you can do any of the following.
Make a funny face.
Puff your cheeks in frustration.
Give a quick hug.
Give a high-five.
Give a fist bump.
These methods are just as quick as, "How are you?" and create opportunity for more sincere interaction.
5. Allow your feelings and actions to align
We oppress ourselves by suppressing our emotions and thoughts. We suppress emotions for different reasons. One of which is because we feel guilty about how we feel. Don't do that to yourself. There are assertive ways to express a recurring uncomfortable emotion or thought process. The ways to do it vary per situation, but below is a helpful example.
Say a family member keeps giving you advice about how to raise your children. You know this person loves you and you understand they are trying to help. However, the constant "constructive criticism" makes you feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Out of fear of offending them, you endure these conversations.
Instead of allowing these conversations to continue, it would more helpful to you and the family member if you set up a clear boundary and said something like, "To be honest, all this advice is a little overwhelming and discouraging. I don't blame you for me feeling this way, but would you mind if we talked about something else?"
Remember, when you are honest, it liberates everyone. We humans actually like social structures with boundaries. You are willing to take the risk of potentially offending the other person because you value your relationship with them more than your fear of expressing your true feelings. And, more than likely, the other person values their relationship with you more than they value giving advice. So, being honest and open builds the relationship, whereas suppressing your true feelings ruins it.
Being authentic eliminates self-inflicted cognitive dissonance and produces long-term inner peace. Embrace who you are, your opinion and your boundaries; you will discover the true you. Surprisingly, you will also discover the people worth keeping in your life.
Melissa Thurm is a native Georgian, wife and the public relations specialist for Mikarose. She graduated with competency in educational/parental psychology, organized communication and public relations.