Honesty allows relationships to go to a deeper level

Gwen Randall-Young

In order to have a relationship that goes beyond the superficial, there must be some level of honesty. In fact, honesty is sometimes what allows a relationship to go deeper. Regardless of the relationship, be it with a parent, child, partner, colleague or friend, the principles are the same. Sometimes we really need to let another person know what is going on inside of us.
This is not an easy thing in our culture. Let’s face it: we are masters of looking like everything is fine on the outside, even when we are crumbling within. Hiding what we are really feeling leaves us feeling lonely and isolated. There comes a point when the feeling needs to be expressed, and because we are not practiced in doing this, sometimes it comes out wrong. Then things get worse.
So, we resolve to bury our feelings even deeper. Now, we feel even more alone, certain that no one, especially those closest to us, really cares how we feel.
What is the way out of this dilemma? When we feel hurt, our first instinct is to protect ourselves. We do this either by building a protective wall, or else by attacking. Neither approach gets us what we want and need. Ironically, if we truly show our vulnerability, only the most hardened individuals would shut us out. If we build a wall, and retreat inside, we shut others out. They interpret this as rejection or abandonment, feel hurt, and then themselves choose retreat or attack. Things have begun to escalate.
If, on the other hand, we choose to initially attack, we similarly provoke one of those two responses.
Clearly, we need an option that would allow us to break out of this cycle. There is one. It demands expanding our view of the situation to encompass the other person’s feelings and perceptions. It requires that we take a problem-solving approach, rather than just trying to argue for our own position. It asks that we truly care about the other person as much as we care about ourselves. It further requires that we not judge the other person as wrong for trying to fulfill their needs.
It can be helpful if we imagine that the problem in question is between two other people (not ‘me’ and ‘you’), and think how we would approach the issue if we had been called in to mediate. If we approach another person with an attitude of caring and an expressed desire to understand their point of view, it is more likely that they will open up. It is only then that meaningful communication can occur. If both people use this approach, both the relationship and the individuals are transformed. When most of us do it, our world will be transformed.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit www.gwen.ca. Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.