Secrets and lies kill relationships. What we keep secret stays real and present for us into the future and impacts our experiences, killing our confidence and our dreams. Shining a light on these secrets and owning up to them sets us free, helps us self-correct, and builds the real intimacy that we so deeply crave.
What We Hide Owns Us
We all have a list of secrets, big and small. Our friends and loved ones have secrets that they keep from us, too. We are accustomed to believe that if we tell people what we really think, we may hurt their feelings or get into trouble. We keep our real thoughts secret and ultimately hide our true selves from the people we care about most. But what can you expect to receive when you present an untruthful version of yourself?
If you believe that you attract what you present to the world, then being authentic would attract the right kind of people to you. It would free you from making fear-based decisions and judgements, and connect you to your people, your dreams and your highest self. The truth is often harder to tell, but it’s so much easier to live with in the long run.
Make a List of Confessions
When I coach clients, I give them f the same assignment I had to complete to become a coach: write up a lengthy confession list of the ‘Ways You Lie’. This is a great exercise for people who are in denial, (reality check: everybody lies sometimes!), people who want to keep their truth-stretching at bay, or people who want to beat the behavior altogether. To complete this exercise, list a few of the most recent times you have engaged in the following:
- Outright Lying: Saying something that isn’t true.
- Hiding Things: Withholding information that you should have said.
- Partial Truths: You shared only partially what happened.
- Thinking, but not saying, things that might hurt someone else.
- Faking Something: Where you think one way, but act another. i.e faking injuries or faking being someone’s friend.
- Avoiding Confrontations.
- Keeping secrets that are “no one’s business.”
- Activities you are now embarrassed by or ashamed of.
- Hurting People.
- Manipulating People.
- Cheating (on people, tests, at cards, etc.).
Of course, I have a list too. I exaggerate how much work I did, manipulate my way out of chores at home, hide things from my boss, or let an unpleasant conversation linger on in my head without airing it with the other person. I often share my lie list with my clients or when leading workshops, and am always relieved that reading it aloud does not cause people to hate me or look down on me. If anything, it connects us more deeply. This is precisely why I share it––to show people that it doesn’t make them want to punish me. What makes us human is not truly shameful, unforgivable or unlovable. Our common flaws allow us to connect us in an open, honest way that can be hard to find in today’s world.
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Weigh the Consequences
Inevitably (of course!), clients resist the idea because of the things that may be revealed to others. So I share my own experiences of coming clean, having done this work myself with great success. But what really convinces them is comparing the suffering inherent in hiding the truth, with the alternative consequences of telling the truth. I ask them, “Are you willing to take the true consequences of your choices, and grow from them?”
Often, instead of taking the true consequence of our choice and enduring the reactions of the people we’ve impacted, we punish ourselves a little bit for a very long time. Most of us punish ourselves WAY MORE than anyone else ever would for that which we regret. We enact in our imaginations being rejected over and over as a result of telling the truth. We cut ourselves off from the person involved (yes, even if we are married to them). Suddenly, we cannot really say what we think, ask for what we want, or come through totally for that person.
The Art of Tough Conversations
What we suggest is to go ahead and take the actual consequence, rather than keep the lie. At the VERY worst, it might mean a one-time rejection (versus the repetitive rejections you live with in your mind) that hurts like a Band-Aid being ripped off. More likely, however, is that you’ll just have to endure the person’s emotional reaction and work through their feelings about what happened together. The other person might remember the situation in a much different way than you do. Maybe they have a confession as well!
I assure you, when done right, these conversations bring a new respect and closeness to a relationship. Having these conversations is the only path to forgiveness from others and from yourself.
Designing these types of conversations is an art form that we don’t recommend doing without supervision and practice. Sometimes, real fights ensue, but it’s likely for the best. While these might be scary, remember that even in the wake of a fight, ultimate success and resolution is possible, perhaps even more likely.
Think of your friendships, and all the relationships you sustain throughout your life. Which ones would be completely transformed if you were willing to brave up and tackle the intimate conversations. How would YOU change if you made ‘Telling the Truth’ your personal philosophy?
We believe that truth-telling, intimacy, and courageous conversations are KEY components of deep and lasting friendships—and that these types of friendships are key components of a happy life.
P.S. Yes, YOU can become an expert in truth-telling, intimacy, and courageous conversations. Try InnerU: our digital 12-session coaching course that equips you with lessons, coaching assignments, and prizes to change your life for the better.