Have you ever encountered one of those SuPeR awkward moments when someone asks you a question and you’re afraid to answer honestly? I.e. “How does my hair look?” “Does this outfit look okay?” Depending on your natural instincts and general disposition, you might be the passive pleaser; the hella honest, sort of rude friend; or somewhere in the middle. You can probably guess the types of people I’m talking about. Disclaimer: None of these approaches are inherently wrong!!!! In this article, I’m simply going to propose a pathway to navigate this sticky type of situation.

If you are asked a question that calls for an opinionated response, you’re going to have a gut reaction—either “Wow that’s great!” or “Ooh yikes…” Gut reactions are invaluable in establishing a base belief. It’s like when you tell a little girl that she looks pretty in her princess dress and sparkling tiara. Naturally, she will respond with, “I️ know!” instead of the socialized response, “Thank you!” You and this little girl both know how you feel about a certain thing or situation. You don’t have to ignore that innate feeling. Your Truth is your Truth.

HOWEVER… As we all know, the Truth can hurt. The unwanted Truth can even harm relationships. The important thing to remember is that it’s not what you say, but how you say it. I recently converted to Buddhism, in which an important concept is learning how to effectively communicate your Truth. (PSA: You don’t have to be Buddhist to work on this communication skill!!!!) Simply keep in mind that there IS a way to speak your mind without being hurtful. In order to maintain the health of your relationships, tone, word choice, and appropriate language is key.

For example, at the monastery I attend, there is only one other American there who speaks fluent English—Eliz. He used to help one of the monks with the guard dogs and other chores around the temple. One day he was laying tile for a Vietnamese friend when the monk called, asking for a favor. Unable to go help, he told his non-English speaking friend after the phone call ended that he was frustrated that he could not help the monk. Misunderstanding, the friend told the monk that Eliz was frustrated by working with the monk. As a result, Eliz has been banned from helping with the guard dogs since because the monk was so offended, and Eliz has no way of crossing the language barrier to clear up the confusion. While most people do not have to deal with traversing languages, it is still crucial to be mindful and not mind full of language and word choice. Eliz related to me that if he had been truly conscious of his words, he would have selected much better word choice that would not have come across as negative.

So, if you are asked a difficult question, honor your initial reaction, but pair your honesty with effective, constructive criticism to maintain a healthy and positive perspective. Keep in mind that your opinion matters, and while unwanted opinions can be hurtful, your opinion is most clearly valued when it is asked for. You may keep the following quotation in mind: “If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind” (Buddha). Discover ways to be genuine, yet constructive in your own words. Choose your battles carefully, as we are all existing on different planes, contemplating, “How night my words affect the person in front of me? How can I honor them in both a heartfelt and kind manner?” Though it can be difficult to find this balance, especially when put on the spot, respect is the fruitful result of this Truthful interaction.

Sound precarious? Like a lot of work? Or walking on eggshells? It may seem so, but the reality is much simpler. This respect will flow naturally from a calm understanding of wanting the best for the other person. Keeping that in mind, rather than the possibility of hurting their feelings or coming off as rude, will place the focus outside of yourself and on the well-being of that person.

Likewise, if you ask for the Truth, be prepared to receive it if it is not the biased response that you had hoped for. The road for honesty is a two-way street, and it takes just as much strength to receive it with grace as it does to give it with grace.

Now go out and be clear, yet responsible. Be firm, yet kind. Be Truthful, yet mindful. Namaste, my friends.

Love & Light,
Jordan Cardell <3