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Consensual sharing or commando honesty?

I got a question if we need to or if it’s advisable to ask others first before expressing strong emotions such as anger or sadness to them.

I say: it depends.

Like most things in life, this is not so black and white.

I think it’s good to ask if you think that’s better for the interaction and the other person might be more open to hearing.

Asking gives the other person a chance to orientate, most times kind of get more open and ready as they know a bit what is coming.

In my experience people tend to be open when I ask or say something like:

“I want to share something and I worry you might not like it / feel upset / hurt / angry / like me less” etc.

In general I prefer more consensual expression than commando style.

Though, commando style has its place too.

And I also prefer being real and going with the flow and dynamic of the interaction rather than having a fixed rule like, “I should always ask first” or “I never need to ask before expressing myself”.

For me, my expression is important – and so is the situation of the other person.

I want them to be in a place of hearing me. Otherwise the sharing might not serve either of us and can create more anger or misunderstanding.

For example, if I know the other person is tired or I am tired I might consider if the timing is right for “heavy sharing”. Or if they are already pretty overwhelmed I might decide to talk later. Not to shut myself up but rather making a conscious choice which I think is serving me and the other best.

Of course, if I am boiling with my partner or friend I most likely won’t be quiet until the next morning. Then I’ll blurt my stuff out and also acknowledge that this might not be the best time to have a heavy process and they might not be very open to hearing me.

Watch this video I made about expressing anger:

I think Radical Honesty is a great way of living and being with others. And like most things – does not work very well when used in a dogmatic, non-flexible and stiff way.

The beauty of Radical Honesty is in my opinion is simplicity, clear “You and I” language and separating facts and the interpretations.

Of course sharing opinions, stories and interpretations can be important and increase understanding. Just not when they are mixed up with facts and offered to other people as facts.

I like this simple example that happens to me still while talking with Pete (or also with some other people).

I talk. He looks away.

My interpretations: “He is not interested”, “I’m not important to him”, “He wants me to stop talking”, “He finds my sharing boring”.

Facts: I was talking and he looked away.

Next step: I resent him for looking away while I was talking or share that I didn’t like it. I share my thought that he was not interested.

Pete listens. He shares that he heard the cat jumping off the cupboard and he is interested in what I am saying. I need to decide, meaning feel in my body, whether I believe him or not. If I don’t believe him I will tell him so.

It is up to me to believe or not believe people. They don’t need to convince me or make me believe.

This is a real life example. Of course Pete could also say that actually he was not interested and made himself distracted if that was true. Maybe he wasn’t aware even himself that he wasn’t that interested. Or he had withheld it and has now a chance to share it.

Or: maybe he is interested indeed and also wants to change the topic soon.

By the way you might also like this video I made about the difference between Radical Honesty and brutal honesty:

What is your preferred way of expressing yourself?

Asking first or rather going with the flow?

When are you afraid of expressing yourself & what do you do then?

What do you do when you don’t quite get it right?

Tuulia (& Pete)

P.S. Check out our upcoming workshops.

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