How to Speak Your Truth and Quit Living a Lie

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Fierce Conversations" by Susan Scott. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you ready to speak your truth? What are ways to get comfortable with being open and honest?

No one should have to live a lie. Everyone deserves to live the life they want, and that includes being open about your thoughts and feelings with the people around you.

If you’re ready to uncover your truths, keep reading.

Uncover and Prepare to Share Your Truths

In Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott explains that the first step in having courageous conversations is to speak your truths—the most important aspects of your life currently. These aspects include your thoughts, feelings, desires, and concerns regarding important relationships and circumstances in your life. For example, you might need to discuss the truth of your concern for your best friend’s mental health, or as a business leader, the truth of the decrease in employee satisfaction at work.

(Shortform note: In High Performance Habits, Brendon Burchard reiterates that you must regularly monitor the most important things in your life (your “truths”) in order to maintain happiness and success. However, while Scott argues that your truths are your thoughts, feelings, desires, and concerns about important relationships and circumstances in your life (like your job or your relationships with your child), Burchard puts forth nine specific categories in which you should monitor your overall happiness—family, friends, significant other, well-being, spirituality, emotions, exploration, work, and money.)

Scott emphasizes that this process may be difficult because some truths are uncomfortable, and people often repress rather than consciously think about these things to avoid discomfort. To uncover your deep truths, ask yourself the following questions regarding your self (who you are and who you want to be), your life path (personal relationships, goals, and so on), and your career (work relationships, work goals, and so on): 

  • What’s making me unhappy? 
  • What am I, or others, afraid to talk about? 
  • What changes or circumstances need to be discussed?
  • What do I want, why do I want it, and how will I get it?

The truths that arise in your answers are the most pressing topics you should discuss. Scott notes that as you do this regularly over time, the process will become a natural behavior and you’ll become more aware of your deep truths without having to spend time intentionally analyzing yourself and your life.

Creating a Personal Dashboard

In Designing Your Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans argue, like Scott, that in order to live a happy and fulfilling life, you must actively assess numerous aspects of your life to uncover issues and areas of improvement that need your attention. Otherwise, these aspects may go unnoticed. However, their method differs slightly from Scott’s. Whereas Scott recommends evaluating three primary categories of your life—your inner self, life path, and career—Burnett and Evans put forth four

First, they recommend monitoring and evaluating your health—the state of your mind, body, and spirit. This is similar to Scott’s “self” category. Second, they recommend evaluating work—your contribution to humanity, both paid and unpaid. This category intersects with both “life path” and “career” categories of Scott’s method. Third, they recommend evaluating your joy—the pleasure you gain from doing things for fun. Scott doesn’t include this category in her method. Finally, they recommend evaluating your relationships. While Scott doesn’t include relationships as a primary category, she does recommend evaluating your relationships as part of the life path and career categories.

Further, whereas Scott recommends evaluating the primary categories of your life by asking a few general questions about each category, Burnett and Evans’s method is slightly more elaborate. First, they provide a list of questions specifically designed for each category—For example, for the joy category, “What do you do purely for enjoyment? How do you ‘play’?”. Once you’ve answered these questions, they then recommend ranking how “full” that category is from 1-100% to determine which areas need the most immediate attention.

Guideline #1.1: Identify Who Needs to Hear Your Truth

Once you uncover the truths you must discuss, Scott explains that you must determine who you need to discuss them with. For each truth you uncovered, list the people involved in the situation—this is who you must converse with. Be sure to converse with everyone who’s relevant so you can hear all sides of the issue and create a sustainable and effective solution.

(Shortform note: Experts reiterate that the people you invite to your discussion should be those directly involved in the issue, adding that they should also bring diverse opinions and have a shared goal. However, while Scott explains that your attendance list should include everyone who’s involved in the situation, experts warn that inviting too many people into the discussion is ineffective. They specify that you should limit your discussion to seven people at most, otherwise it becomes difficult to process all the information provided and come to an effective decision.)

Scott elaborates that you should discuss some truths with yourself only—for example, truths that pertain to you only or don’t require external interventions. 

(Shortform note: While you can discuss personal truths with just yourself, doing so with a therapist may provide additional benefits. Talk therapy may help you gain a more complete understanding of your thoughts, feelings, concerns, and desires so you can determine what to do about them. Therapy also provides you with support so you don’t feel like you have to solve all your problems alone.)

Guideline #1.2: Prepare The Topic For Discussion

Once you’ve determined who you need to talk to, Scott says you must prepare the topic for discussion—clarify all the important details so you can contextualize and clearly explain the topic to others. She provides a few steps for doing so. If the topic requires a conversation with your inner self rather than others, use these steps to self-evaluate the issue and determine the most effective actions you can take.

Step #1: Define the Issue and Its Importance

First, concisely describe the issue and why it’s important—what’s happening, when it started, what the impact is, how severe the issue is, and what could happen if it continues. For example “employee satisfaction has decreased by 20% in the last year. This has the potential to decrease our company output and indicates there are issues within our organization. If this continues, we could lose business.”

When discussing topics involving interpersonal relationships, like your friend’s mental health, you’ll want to include additional personal details like the impact the issue is having on relationships and emotions (yours and/or theirs) and any role you might have played in creating or perpetuating the issue. 

Step #2: Identify What You Want to Happen

Next, Scott says to record what your ideal situation will be when the issue is solved—this will narrow down your goal. For example, “I want to create a company culture where employees enjoy their job, are productive, and feel supported by management. This will increase the company’s overall productivity, and revenue, and give us an edge over competitors.”

Step #3: Identify What Has Been Done and What Can Be Done

Scott’s recommendations for following this guideline differ depending on whether your topic is being discussed with a large group in a corporate setting (like the issue of employee satisfaction), or with a more intimate group (like the issue of your friend’s mental health.)

In larger corporate settings, list relevant information pertaining to the topic, any attempts that have been made to solve the issue, and any solutions you’re currently considering. For example, “Satisfaction began decreasing in October of last year. We also removed certain employee amenities around this time like free breakfast, reduced-cost childcare, and unlimited PTO. Reintroducing reduced-cost childcare two months ago increased satisfaction rates by 5%. I’m currently considering reinstating other amenities we previously removed.”

Then, identify what role you want the group to play in the discussion. For example, you might want them to help propose new ideas, provide you with additional information, give you feedback on your ideas, and so on.

In more intimate settings—conversations with one or a few people—determine the most important thing you can do to solve the issue and when you can do it. During this process, brainstorm any potential barriers in your way, and how you can avoid or overcome them. For example “the most important thing I can do right now is let my friend know that I care about her and am willing to do whatever I can to help. I can do this today. She might resist my help at first, but I can overcome this by regularly reminding her that I’m here whenever she needs me.”

Step #4: In Large Meetings, Reconsider Who to Involve

Scott emphasizes that for topics that have a wide scope and require larger meetings, you should reconsider who to involve in the discussion. Once you’ve completed your topic preparation, you might realize you need additional information and perspectives that the current group can’t provide. For example, after identifying that your ideal outcome is to change your company culture, you might realize you need a professional consultant in the conversation who can help you identify what you need to change and how you can do it.

How to Speak Your Truth and Quit Living a Lie

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  • Why you must have uncomfortable discussions about feelings
  • How to uncover the most critical issues that must be addressed
  • How to ensure you stay aligned with your life goals

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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