Monday, January 19, 2009

The Goal

My new year’s resolution for 2009 is to work on personal relationships, and find ways to feel closer to other people. My initial goal read like this: “Reveal personal thoughts, expand my comfort zone in talking to people, and improve communication skills”, but after rolling it around in my thoughts for a few days, I’ve decided that I really need to focus on bringing more honesty and courage to the relationships I have with others. It’s not that I’m not basically honest in the sense of answering questions truthfully, but I was raised to the mantra of “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”, so I’ve begun thinking about the extent to which I self-censor my own speech, and the impact of that on the relationships in my life.

I read that you feel closest to the people with whom you are most honest and open, which seems very true and obvious once you say it out loud. And yet, that’s not the way I function, and I think not the way most people function. For most of us it goes like this: I like you and I want you to like me, so I will try to figure out what kind of person you would like, and then I’ll try to be that way. Of course, if I succeed I’ll never really know if you really like me for who I am, or only for who I’m pretending to be. And I’ll never really feel comfortable in my role, or be able to relax my inner dialog. And then I’ll wonder why I don’t feel close to you…

On the other hand, there are reasons, perhaps legitimate ones, why I can’t be open and honest with everyone all the time, but I would like to find out what are the real limitations on honesty and openness? So I’m asking myself how far can I push that envelope, and whether there are any useful strategies for managing the risks that come along with this?

In that spirit, I’m taking a second look at what I’m thinking and why I don’t normally share certain thoughts with others. The reasons seem to fall into two categories. One is that I’m afraid of offending people. If I’m having a thought like “you’re totally wrong about that” or “that seems like a selfish thing to do”, I don’t share that because I don’t want to make people feel bad. The other reason for not sharing thoughts is that people will think I’m weird, or would be judgmental in some other way.

What do you think…are these the reasons that you to hold back in revealing what you’re thinking? Is your experience that honesty brings people closer together or pushes them farther apart?

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