Speak Your Truth
by Annia Baron
The feeling can be crushing. That sudden, stinging sadness that engulfs your heart and reverberates through your chest to the pit of your stomach.
You’ve been made aware that someone you care about has let you down. Worse, they’ve reacted negatively towards you, so strongly or so out of the blue that when reading their messages, you don’t even know what to make of the content – harsh words about your character or choices. In that moment, you question everything about your connection with them. What the heck? Where did this come from? Is this really how they feel about me? Did I miss something here?
Knowing somebody is upset with us can trigger a cascade of deeply unpleasant emotional experiences, especially when their reaction to something we’ve said or done is unexpected or we learn they’ve been harbouring dissatisfaction towards us for a while. It’s awful; a huge stressor. And like anything that causes psychological tension, we’re compelled to resolve it. We want to put things right – our name, our reputation, and our position. With our heart racing and pulse rising, we start formulating a response, planning what to say and how to say it. But before we press send, maybe there’s an elevated approach to handling these triggering situations. When you notice a sense of urgency, perhaps it’s helpful to S.P.E.A.K your truth instead.
Slow down: During times of interpersonal conflict, our limbic system is activated, and emotions run high. Prior to any discussion, give yourself as many hours or days as you need to gather your thoughts. In the meantime, you can simply respond with something like, “I’m not ready to talk. I want to give this the time it deserves. I’ll get back to you in a few days.”
Practice cooling your mind: Mental havoc can arise when we’re emotionally threatened but you can override the ‘hot’, reactive part of the brain with cooling techniques. These will activate the prefrontal cortex, where we can reprogram our thoughts with reason, logic, and creative problem solving. Switch on a mindfulness app, do a gentle stretch, or enjoy some progressive muscle relaxation. These can do wonders for reinstating a sense of calm in the body and steadiness in the mind. The clearer we can be, the more effectively we’ll resolve the situation (and avoid saying anything we may regret!).
Empower your core values: Although things may feel overwhelming and confusing, return to your personal values. What are the most important things to you in terms of how you want to handle the situation? What strengths can you draw upon in this moment? Integrity, honesty, love, forgiveness? Knowing what you truly hold dear will help guide your perspective and leave you feeling good about how you’re choosing to act towards the other person. Focusing on our core values cultivates a sense of inner control that can help steer us towards a more favourable outcome.
Accountability: Explore what facets of the issue are your responsibility and which are not. If you’ve contributed to the situation, be a good adult and own it. But remember, it’s not your role to please or placate the other person simply for the sake of peace, especially if in your heart, you trust you haven’t intentionally done anything to upset them. Be courageous, assert yourself where needed, and apologise if there’s a reason to.
Kind communication: Before you articulate a response, remind yourself that we’re all human. We all go through challenging times and probably project a lot of our own ‘stuff’ onto one another. Misinterpretations often arise from a lack of communication so be clear and be gentle. It’s not about who is right or wrong, it’s about being respectful – to both you and the other person. State how you feel, what you’d appreciate and what you’d like to do moving forward. For example, “I’m sorry you feel this way. I care about you, but I was hurt by your actions. We may not see eye to eye on some things, but I respect our connection and feel that we can move forward with a better understanding of one another’s experience. In the future, I’d appreciate you being honest with me earlier so that things don’t build up between us. Let me know what would be helpful for you too.”
It’s inevitable we’ll experience situations with friends, partners or colleagues that result in setbacks and disagreements.
We’ll likely find ourselves giving into the rush of needing to justify, explain and defend. That’s okay, we’re allowed to. But remember that no matter how you choose to resolve an uncomfortable situation, giving yourself permission to S.P.E.A.K your truth could alleviate unnecessary anguish and lead to a more transparent and loving resolution, one that could leave you both feeling more open and authentic than before. Our social interactions may not always go swimmingly, however taking the time to be with our emotions, regulate our responses, and reply from a place of compassionate confidence, we can strengthen our capacity for more resilient, wholehearted, and mutually respectful interactions. Yes to that!
Annia Baron is a Clinical Psychologist & Mindset Coach. Want to learn more about mindset tools to create a life you desire and deserve? Get in touch on Instagram @anniabaron or visit www.remindyourself.com.