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Truthful and Caring Communications

When communication is too carefully guarded - when we walk the fence," trying to say what the other person will accept rather than what we really mean; when we say yes when we mean no - we can easily cross the line into dishonesty, so that our interactions with other people become dry and meaningless. Cocktail-party chatter is not bad, but it is generally not all that nourishing. The failure to express our real feelings can rob us of energy. Sharing ourselves honestly with another can provide both parties with a real gift - a gift of energy.

"I" Messages

Communicating with others is more intimate when you are able to share your true feelings, rather than merely talking about the weather or hobbies. Feelings are not always pleasant subjects and most of us have trouble expressing negative feelings. Often, when we are upset, we send "you messages" to the person with whom we are upset, rather than state how we feel. Other people are more likely to become defensive if they feel they are being judged. They are more likely to be receptive if, instead, you tell them what you are feeling - an "I message" - rather than make a judgment about them.

Example of "you message" with a judgment:

"You're confusing me. You are not making sense."

Example of "I message" with an emotion stated:

"I'm upset because I don't understand."

Notice how the first can be construed as an invitation to fight, and the second, an invitation to share feelings and solve a problem. These methods are effective with those who are invested in having a healthy relationship with you. Despite your best efforts at wording the communication from an "I message" point of view, some people will probably take offense anyway, especially at first.


Defensiveness is a natural response when we feel threatened, or feel like we may have done something wrong. Be patient. In these cases you may need to broach the subject at a more ideal time, giving your partner some chance to adapt to this straightforward means of communication. Do your best. If the relationship is an intimate one or one that requires the building and maintenance of trust, it is all the more vital that clear, truthful, and caring communications be the foundation. By sharing our words with others, we share our thoughts, and thus we share ourselves. As we learn about each other, we learn more about the world at large and more about ourselves. The ability to view our exchange in this way allows us to be open, to learn, and to grow.
The advantage of telling the truth is that you don't have to remember what you said. —Mark Twain

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