We may have good intentions for being direct and honest with others, but in practice it can be challenging to do, particularly when it involves sharing the deeper parts of ourselves and our true feelings.
When engaging in new or lighter social relationships that lack emotional intimacy, we may encounter only narrow windows of space and timing to reach out and say what is in our hearts or heads, to take our connection to another level. If we are not ready for the exposure, prepared to take the plunge and risk rocking the boat a little, then we’re more likely to hesitate and miss that brief opportunity.
Maybe we are glad to miss it, and feel at ease once that chance passes us by. We let it go hoping the truth will leak out another way, without us having to say anything at all. Maybe this approach works out, and we’re spared for a time the discomfort of expressing ourselves outright. We breathe a sigh of relief. Awkwardness avoided! Pain escaped! We’re safe!
If we do that too often, however, there will develop a pattern in our lives of encounters with others that are riddled by unspoken feelings, thoughts, questions, concerns. We will be led again and again to experiences that push us against the limit of our comfort zone where opening up and speaking up make us quake inside.
We can keep running, keep silent, keep safe. But by doing that we miss the most magical part of being alive: being authentic while connecting more deeply with another human being.
We cannot expect others to be open and forthright about their feelings if we ourselves are not that way. This is a skill that can be developed, however improvements won’t happen without some determination and a willingness to grow on our part. Because being open can be scary–and so very easy to avoid–it is critical that we consciously make opportunities to be open. We can ask questions of people that give them a door to step through to share their inner world with us. We can pay attention in conversations for a point or a pause to segue into saying what’s going on in ours.
The welcoming invitation and intention must to be there or else we will tend to clam up, err on the side of caution, hiding who we are, what we want or need, and protecting our true selves from the vulnerability that comes with being real.
Words and silence alike can act as a shield or a mask to hide from others, to avoid being real, or they can serve to unveil who we really are and what we most desire and need. It’s a risky thing to do, to open up, and it takes courage. But it is a revolutionary act that frees the spirit, that strengthens who we are in the world and creates transparency, allowing greater trust and confidence in ourselves and in each other. It lets our true voice be heard, and lets the richness of life in.
The times when we shut down are the times we most need to open up and connect. We must not be mute where it counts, or deny ourselves or others the chance to express what sits beneath the silence and between everyday conversations. As long as we speak our truth with the intention to connect from the heart, with love and with empathy for one another, there’s no way to go wrong.
In the words of singer-songwriter Sean Hayes,
“No way to lose when you move with love.”