Learning to be frank is, in and of itself, a practice of learning how to be frank. Without practicing forthrightness, with ourselves and with others, we won’t get any better at being authentic. The best place for us to try on honesty is in our relationships with ourselves and with others.
Being straightforward with others begins with being straightforward with ourselves. If I can tell myself the truth, truthfulness with others will more likely follow. Authenticity though, is a risky business. Not everyone may want the same ingredients in the relationship as you do. Not everyone may want to do the work that a genuine relationship requires. Respecting the other for what they want or don’t want is paramount.
Before going out on a limb with frankness though, it is always good to ask ourselves a few questions. For instance, do I have enough history with this person to know whether or not they are safe?
Recently, I shared a ride to the airport with a new coworker because we were traveling together to a conference. Our conversation began casually, but then went deep in a hurry. She asked me questions that I considered to be rather personal. I responded by telling her that I didn’t feel comfortable answering her right then. She respectfully changed the topic. I’ve since gotten to know her better and have found her to be trustworthy. But, I wasn’t comfortable with diving deep with her right out of the gate.
A second question we may ask ourselves is whether or not speaking the truth will benefit the relationship. Do my words matter to this person? Will my candidness be respected and perhaps, alter the relationship for the better?
Though I long for straightforward relationships, especially within my family, I’ve had a door or two slammed in my face because I was too forthright with my thoughts. Remembering that not everyone is interested in the same ingredients in a relationship can remind us to be cautious with our words. As a friend says to me, “There is always more than one way to say the same thing,” so, speaking truthfully, but with gentleness is a constant practice for me.
Why bother being frank? I am grateful for the people in my life with whom I can be straightforward with as well as those who require me to be much more gentle with my words. They both provide me with a training ground to practice being frank.