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The Impact of Communicating With Honesty

How Free Would We Be if We Were Just Honest?

By Ashley TrippPublished 3 months ago 8 min read
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The Impact of Communicating With Honesty
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Have you ever felt like everything is way more complicated than it should be? Every conversation, every attempt at communication, every expression absolutely drains you? You might be trapped in a cycle of masks and toxic communication.

What Does Toxic Communication Do?

Too many of us spend our lives untangling the web of complicated emotions and unhealthy communication patterns we inherited or learned as children.

Over the past 2 decades, improvements in mental health, self care, and relationships have boomed in society. As a result, we want to change with it.

We long to be free. To speak, feel, and react freely. To not feel like we have to mask every emotion or to perform some rehearsed response.

We don't have to limit who we are, making ourselves smaller and more palatable.

To be clear: I am in no way condoning uncontrolled reactions that cause harm. Ones where anger, resentment, abuse and more fester.

Ones where we are allowed to act however we want without consequences.

Instead, I propose this: free yourself from artificial poise and learn to verbalize your needs.

What if we lived and acted authentically?

Imagine what your life would be like if you could be wholly you without hiding behind a facade, masking your true wants and needs. Wouldn't you feel free? Wouldn't you have greater intimacy in your relationships? Live wider and more experienced lives? Have communication with real depth?

If you've grown up always rehearsing and framing every word and action to achieve roundabout results, this can sound impossible. It can sound downright dangerous. It's risky exposing your real self to a world that isn't always looking out for your best interest.

But what if instead of living in fear that people won't accept us, we chose to become those acceptors for ourselves and others?

Going Back to Where It Began

Part of my upbringing was to be the smartest person in the room. You couldn't let anyone make you look like the fool. And, over time, that bled into every relationship and situation of my life.

Don't know something? Don't let on. Can't do it? Don't even try at all.

I was so afraid of being mocked for looking stupid. The combination of a viciously competitive childhood and high school bullies don't help self-consciousness. I don't share this to garner pity, but provide insight.

I believe that, despite the differences, many of us have grown up feeling the same way. Our culture of individualism has eroded the basic need for community to function. We live in terror of being discovered that we can't do it all.

Because of that, we need to feel secure and in control. But those limiting factors hinder us: they prevent us from communicating our basic needs. They stop us from asking for the very help we need. Our fears have taught us that when we don't know what to do, we can't trust anyone else to help.

And in moments where control is lost, we are untethered.

So How Do we Cope Toxically?

As a direct result of individualism and fear, the need for control outranks our ability to be vulnerable. Rather than clearly and simply sharing a need or want, we often strive to get it another way.

If we can get others do offer-or do what we want without asking—we don't have to expose ourselves to vulnerability. We aren't forced to shed light on our weaknesses or shortcomings. They lay in the dark, strangled by shame, paralyzing us from honesty.

Those beliefs about myself engrained deeper into my life over time. They isolated me, even to the point where I was afraid to express any emotion for fear it would be the "wrong" one.

Things were no longer natural or organic. There was a right or wrong, a winner or loser. In an act of self preservation, I had completely disconnected from myself.

How Does This Hurt Us?

The combination of loss of self identity and the constant fear of rejection coupled to form a terrible subconscious solution: get my needs met (without exposing myself) through back channel manipulation.

It hurts to write those words, especially if you know my story. I wasn't trying to actively manipulate anyone, of course. It didn't feel that way to me. But my communication skills were so stunted, so toxically formed, it was the only way I knew how to express myself.

I was so paralyzed, so silenced, by my fears of rejection that I simply couldn't ask for what I needed. I couldn't be vulnerable, open, or honest. They felt like weakness of character as well as painting a large target on my back of where to strike.

Going through these "back channels" as I call them, meant showing people what I needed without asking. In my home, you had to prove and justify why you needed something.

The only way I knew how to express a need was to show my suffering and pray like hell the other person could pick up on my subconscious begging.

I was imprisoned. I was trapped in my own brain and my own inability to reach out. It felt awful. Once again, the power was left entirely in someone else's hands. Worse, I would be irrationally devastated if they didn't respond how I needed. Yet, I never thought-never dreamed-of openly asking for what I wanted. It didn't occur to me as an option because for most of my life, it wasn't.

I have a strong feeling I'm not alone in this. In a society with such an emphasis on individualism, productivity, and success, needs are not well received. Add in the amount of people who come from dysfunctional families, there is an army of people walking around who cannot verbalize what they need — consciously or not. There is so much shame, fear, rejection, and vulnerability at risk.

What Do You Do?

As with so many complicated problems stemming from dysfunction, the solution is simple. Not easy, mind you, but simple.

The only want to do it is to just do it. We have to relearn and retrain ourselves to he oly with voicing our needs. We have to retrain ourselves to be okay with voicing our needs. We have to speak up for ourselves. We have to face confrontation. But most importantly, we have to get to know ourselves enough first to know what we need so we can communicate it.

Like I said, this certainly isn't easy. It will take a long time to get used to. I regularly catch myself in these moments and have to redirect course. But it sort of follows the logic of Occam's razor: the simplest solution is usually the most likely one- in this case, it's the best one.

When you can allow yourself to be authentic, you can alleviate anxiety and the reliance on others reactions.

——————

My moment of clarity came to be after a terrible experience where lack of communication hurt me and someone I love. Neither one of us had the tools to verbalize our needs and the result was both of us hurting.

I realized something needed to change. I felt voiceless and powerless over even small things. There was so much shame and fear around every single need or want. And the damage done that day was my wake up call.

It was the first time I realized how I was acting: bending over backwards to avoid confrontation in the bid that the other person could pick up (and act on) my needs.

For most of my life, I was silencing myself to look and feel less needy. The shame I had around having needs prevented me from simply being open-and that was making it a lot harder to get my needs met.

I was repeating behaviors from childhood because I didn't know any better.

But I hadn't realized that I was acting passive aggressively. I hadn't realized I was stifling my own voice (therefore squashing my own needs).

Two realizations changed everything:

1. I'm allowed to have needs-and voice them to the people around me.

2. Being straightforward and honest is be both freeing and less exhausting.

These two things didn't guarantee I'd get my needs met, but they gave me agency. They gave me the freedom and permission to speak on my own behalf-to ask for what I need. They showed me how to take care of myself, even if (and especially if) others wouldn't do it for me.

But I no longer need to do the extra work of proving anything to anyone. I am beginning to trust myself and regain my voice.

Moreover, I don't have to "outwit" people and situations that make me nervous. I have nothing to prove. And I don't have to function like a solitary impenetrable pillar. I don't even have to play the unspoken games of the people around me- not by their rules, not at all.

I gave myself the freedom to just be, to just exist. I don't have to fabricate situations or reactions or any form of manipulation to hope that others will rescue me. I have the freedom to speak freely and honestly. I hope that you have the courage to try it for yourself too.

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About the Creator

Ashley Tripp

I’m a freelance writer & artist. I create pieces about the things that move me with the hopes that they move my readers too. My work has been featured in multiple publications. Check out my website for more at https://msha.ke/ashleytripp

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