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How to Have Honest Conversations

Honest conversations require us to be open to vulnerability. Being vulnerable allows us to share our hopes, fears, insecurities, dreams, strengths, and weaknesses. It takes courage to share our thoughts and feelings, as well as to positively regard others. Whether in our intimate or professional relationships, being able to say what we mean and mean what we say enables us to have our needs met and to meet the needs of others around us. It is important to dedicate the time to talk authentically about our emotions, preferences, and needs with those whom we value and hold relationships.

To have honest conversations in our relationships, it can be helpful to begin by having an open mind and believing that you and the other person are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole. When we gather the courage to share what we truly feel and think, we open doors for others to reciprocate by sharing honestly with grace and tact. We are all capable of seeing and being seen for our hopes, fears, ambitions, talents, and faults. To create closeness and connection, we need to have the courage to be honest with ourselves and others about our intentions, needs, wants, and desires. By sharing our goals, shortcomings, thoughts, and emotions, we invite others to respond in kind. We offer others the opportunity to be authentic and responsive to our needs or to honor their own boundaries by saying no.

Honest conversations can be challenging. Being vulnerable often puts us in a position to reveal aspects of our core selves, including our identities, beliefs, and values. We allow others to see us in all of our imperfection. In turn, this can lead us to worry about hurting others’ feelings or facing rejection. We may be concerned about pushing others away or risking the cherished connection entirely. However, the more we practice having honest conversations in our relationships, the better we will be able to lean into authentic conversations when they matter most. “Honesty is the highest form of intimacy,” says Angie Lawhenore, Manager of Clinical Programs at Diversus Health.

Here are a handful of practices to help you develop the skills to have honest conversations in your relationships:

1. Name your feelings, preferences, and needs. When we have the ability to acknowledge how we feel, what we like, and express what we need, we can easily share our preferences and emotions with others. Start by asking yourself a series of validating questions such as “What emotions am I feeling in this moment?” or “What do I really want and what would help me feel valued in this situation?” Perhaps pondering which path you would choose, if it were up to you, is a good way to approach this practice. Once you begin considering your thoughts, triggers, and emotions, you will be better prepared to engage and interact with others when the opportunity arises.

2. Accept your feelings, preferences, and needs. We are all prone to worrying whether our thoughts and feelings are “too much” or “unacceptable.” This way of thinking leaves us vulnerable to the risk of being closed off or unable to share our authentic selves with others. We may even go so far as to risk holding these same judgements of others when they open up to share their inner worlds with us. To accept ourselves, we can begin by asking questions like “What is it like to observe this emotion I am feeling, without judgement?” or “What would my most caring, compassionate friend say about what I am thinking and feeling?” Acceptance starts with our own perception of ourselves. Practicing having an open and accepting mindset starts with ourselves.

3. Practice having honest conversations in low-stakes relationships. It is important to practice honesty in our conversations. Try rehearsing authentic conversations with people who you meet at random, such as a stranger in line at the post office who asks how you are doing. Instead of responding with the habitual, “I’m great,” share something more genuine, such as, “Honestly, I’m having a difficult time today.” Your response may open up an authentic connection or the other person may default to checking their email on their phone. Regardless of reaction, the purpose of this scenario is to practice, practice, practice.

4. Practice having honest conversations around low-stakes topics. Having authentic discussions around low-stakes topics is a great way to share your likes, dislikes, desires, and needs with others. Answer honestly when someone asks, “What time do you want to meet?” or “What toppings should we get on the pizza?” You can share that you would prefer to meet at 5:00 and that you like mushrooms and sausage. If you find that your relationships are having a difficult time accepting your authenticity, that may signal a red flag in regard to a deeper relational issue.

5. Allocate time to have a structured honest conversation with someone you care about. Set aside an hour with a friend, a romantic partner, or a colleague to prompt each other and answer revealing questions. This practice is meant to increase more honest conversation between yourself and others who care about you. Take turns in your conversation. During this practice, listen to others and cultivate a safe space for sharing openly and honestly with each other.

Learning how to engage honestly, courageously, and tactfully will benefit us in the most difficult of conversations in all of our relationships, including those with our children, close friends, life partners, colleagues, superiors, and collaborators. Speaking authentically is a gift to ourselves and others. Knowing how to have honest conversations in our relationships is essential.

*If you or someone you love needs help mediating or discussing honest conversations, request an appointment with one of our Diversus Health providers today. If you are in a crisis and need immediate assistance, call our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.

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