There have been moments in my life when I wanted to speak from my heart authentically and – if possible – also to take care for the connection. However, I didn’t know how to do this because I felt emotionally trapped. I chose to stay quiet to avoid conflict.
I felt afraid of speaking “my truth”, because there was an inner voice that told me, it’s not safe to say what’s alive in me. If I kept quiet, I could protect myself from being judged or blamed. There were also times when I told myself that it didn’t matter if I spoke or not, because I didn’t have much hope of being understood. I stayed quiet and could feel the disconnection from myself and others.
Is this familiar to you?
A few years ago, when Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of Nonviolent Communication, was still alive, I heard him talking about “scary honesty”. He suggested that we regularly ask people we are close to: “What are you afraid of telling me?” Sharing our truth vulnerably helps to create connection by cutting through thinking, judgements and enemy images.
Here are some tips which I found helpful, for speaking from your heart even though it feels scary to do so.
1. Get clear about the difference between Jackal honesty and Giraffe honesty. Jackal honesty is when you express your thoughts, interpretations and evaluations (“You drive too fast. You think you’re a racing driver.”) Giraffe honesty is expressing your feelings and needs related to the situation (“I feel scared, because I want to be safe, and frustrated because I want to be heard on this matter.”)
So when you speak “your truth”, will it be Jackal honesty or Giraffe honesty?
2. Step forward and name your fear of speaking (“I would like to share something that’s on my chest, and I’m afraid that you will hear it as blame and get hurt. My intention is to care for the connection”). If you keep things inside, they will affect you. You will carry them around. A fear can even stimulate what you’re afraid of and make it more likely happen.
3. Get in touch what is alive in you and express your feelings, needs and make a clear request without a demand (“I feel scared, because I want to be safe, and frustrated because I want to be heard on this matter. Are you willing to drive under the speed limit for the rest of the journey? No is also an acceptable answer.”)
4. Become aware of the energy in your voice. This energy is as important as what you want to say. If you come from a place of guilt and shame, your volume might drop. Then again, you might be so nervous that you use more words than the other person can take in. If you come with the energy of “I have a precious gift to offer, of what is alive in me. I’d like to give you a chance to meet my need for connection”, it’s more likely to be received.