Honesty. It’s one thing we all say we want in a relationship, right?
Maybe we’ve been led on or betrayed in the past. Maybe we’ve become fed up with mixed signals and trying to navigate the guessing game of the dating world. Or maybe we just have a hard time opening up to others and being honest ourselves. Whatever the case, a relationship characterized by openness and honesty is something many of us are looking for. But often arriving at that place of comfortable, trusting openness is easier said than done, and making that lofty ideal of honesty into a reality can be tough.
So how do we actually find these honest relationships we so long for? Recently I think I may have discovered the first few steps.
1. Be the initiator. Often, if you want open and honest communication, you have to be the one to seek it out and take the first step, even if it’s risky. If you have mixed feelings or you’re concerned about something that needs to be addressed, you can’t always expect those concerns to just come to light on their own in the course of natural conversation. You may have to gently say something like, “Hey, can we talk about this?” and thereby pave the way for direct but still non-threatening dialogue to take place. But once you do, chances are that the other person will be willing to reciprocate.
I tried this recently and it worked out very well. There was a situation where I wasn’t sure how I felt and didn’t know where the relationship was going. I asked the other person to meet me so we could talk things out openly — and we had a great conversation! I had been uncomfortable at first, but talking things over, speaking my thoughts, and hearing the other person’s perspective made me feel so much better and led to unexpected new avenues in our relationship. Honesty can be healing and freeing, if you only take the effort to seek it out.
2. Be vulnerable. Again, if you want honesty, then you should start with yourself; and that includes acknowledging your own weaknesses and uncertainties. Use caution and wisdom, because this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to share all your deepest secrets and insecurities right up front. Rather, it just means that you should be humble and willing to admit when you don’t have it all together.
This one can be tough for me because I like to be the man with the plan; I like to think I have the answers or that I know where things are going. In my recent conversation, I had to admit things like, “I’m not entirely sure about this,” or, “I went into this not knowing what the outcome would be or what I was looking for.” It’s not always easy, but being honest about your own limits or the things you’re unsure about opens up the channels for mutually beneficial discussion, allowing two people to begin working through those uncertainties together. You just have to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge it and let someone else help you out.
3. Be friends. Honesty works best when two people are friends first and foremost, when they’re already committed to caring for each other and having each other’s best interest at heart. That way, even when weaknesses get uncovered, signals get crossed, and feelings get hurt, you can rest assured that things are still okay, because you’re working through them with a trusted friend who will stand by you regardless of the outcome. You’ll already have a firm foundation built that you can fall back on if need be. And if you and the other person aren’t close friends already, then you can start by being one to them. Make it known that you care and that you’re invested in their well-being, no matter what happens in the current conversation or the course of the relationship.
Don’t be uptight about needing to know the outcome. Don’t try to force an agenda onto the relationship. There’s no need for that when two people truly value and care for each other. Just let the conversation take its natural course and enjoy having a good, honest, and hopefully productive talk with a trusted friend.
Honest relationships are hard to find, and the process can be frustrating. But it doesn’t have to be. Next time you’re not sure what’s going on and you’re craving some direct communication to clear things up, I encourage you to try these tactics for yourself. Take the initiative on your own, be vulnerable and open about your uncertainties, and be willing to maintain a strong bond of friendship no matter what happens. The outcome may surprise you!