I was having a conversation with a close friend who was describing a relationship she was not in and sharing the reason why. She started telling me about what he thinks, but after a number of pointed questions. It became clear that there was that which he actually said, and those areas where she’d filled in the blanks. Because we’re good friends, I was able to suggest to her that she wasn’t engaging in honest conversation with the man but had superimposed many of her suppositions and created an outcome that perhaps neither wanted. Feeling smug, which I am wont to do after scoring a rare victory where she conceded the point. It didn’t take long before she turned the tables and asks me to consider my own history and wondered if perhaps honest conversations might have created different outcomes for me. She didn’t quite throw my two divorces in my face, I think she was saving them in case she needed more ammunition.
I looked back at my own failed relationships and decided that perhaps I could have done better in the honesty department. I conceded some of those relationships shouldn’t have gone past the first date. Let me be clear that honest conversation is not the opposite of lying. You can tell only the truth without ever sharing the important things that could end a relationship if you fail to discuss them or strengthen your bond should you dare.
An honest conversation starts with how you represent yourself initially. People will naturally try to put their best foot forward and try to make a good impression. I am great at that part of a relationship. Without bragging I’m smart, have a few good stories to tell about myself and am considerate and thoughtful. I’m tall (which by the way isn’t a character trait) and have some remnants of the athletic build I had in college. But an honest conversation would include weaknesses I’m reluctant to share. Pride has humbled me on more than one occasion and I don’t readily trust others to accept things about me which I would immediately accept in them. I’m slow to acknowledge (or discuss) that a relationship isn’t working and do what it takes to get it back on track.
I recently had dinner with someone with whom a relationship had ended badly. At her request, we met and talked and shared some of the things we didn’t say to each other when it might have mattered. She apologized for her role and me for mine. We might not have survived anyway but an honest conversation could have made a difference. I was able to remember the things I originally liked about her.
Another woman once asked me, “You seem too good to be true, what’s wrong with you?” I gave her an accurate list in that everything I mentioned was true. It was an opportunity to say the things I feared to say and I missed it. Second chances don’t always come around. There are some people I would say, I’m sorry” to. There are some apologies perhaps to me owed. The point is, we can all do better; me, my friend, perhaps you? When given the chance, try providing more than just a truthful answer. How about an honest one?