How Truth-Telling is Like a Soccer Field
A question came up over the Thanksgiving holiday with family that I'd like to explore today. That question is: Would you rather be told the truth with love OR be pandered to? Now, it's not really that black and white. Of course, there are variations to truth-telling. But, for the sake of this argument, let's just examine those two possibilities: being told the truth with love and being pandered to.
Allow me to give you an example as to why this question came up. My boyfriend, Michael, and I celebrated Thanksgiving two days late, as I had to work at my restaurant on the official holiday. We drove to Pennsylvania to spend the weekend with his dad and his sister, Kim and her family. I love Kim. She's like a soul sister to me. She is incredibly thoughtful and spiritual. We bond over loving Oprah's Soul Sunday and great written characters, like Katniss in The Hunger Games.
Kim and Michael talk almost daily and one of the thing she picked up on and paid attention to is the fact that I love soy chai lattes from Starbucks. So, on Saturday morning, Kim prepared chai bread. Now, one of my weird quirks is that I don't really like pastries. Growing up, my mom would make cinnamon rolls and french toast and I would never eat them. I don't like muffins, either, unless they are the Duncan Hines kind. I never order waffles or pancakes for brunch. For some reason, I am just not a fan of sweet breakfast breads.
Now, Kim made this chai bread specifically for me, which is incredibly thoughtful and makes me feel good that she had me in mind and wanted to make me something that I would like. And yet, I didn't like it. I told Michael and he insisted I tell Kim. But I didn't want to! I didn't want to hurt her feelings, and I wanted her to know how appreciative I was of her considerate gesture.
So, the question came up, over breakfast: which would you rather? Be told the truth with love? Or be pandered to? Well, finally, after discussing with Kim and Michael which we would all prefer, we decided that we'd rather be told the truth with love. I am a firm believer that honesty is the best policy. So, I came out with it, the truth. I let Kim know that I was grateful for her kindness of making the chai bread, but that I was not a fan. I stammered and stuttered and was not very graceful in the telling, but in the end I was honest and she heard me and was fine with it.
Now, this is just a simple example with fairly low stakes. It's much more difficult to be honest with someone when there is a greater risk involved of hurting their feelings.
How does all of this fit in with the Enneagram? Well, the Enneagram is about having compassion for ourselves, our own truths and perspectives, as well as each other's. It is important to take responsibility for your own truth, all the while keeping your heart open to the other.
Imagine communicating truth with others like the landscape of a soccer field. You are responsible for your half of the field, the other is responsible for their half of the field. In order to best communicate, you approach that center circle on your side of the halfway line and you speak your truth with compassion and respect. Now, depending on how hurtful your truth may be to the other, they may stay all the way back to their goal line. However, as long as you remain solid and grounded from a place of love, the other has space to hear you, to respond and perhaps even to move closer and meet you halfway.
This, of course is all easier said than done, but I believe it is not only possible, it is imperative. It never feels good to be pandered to, and if we can remain open to each other's truths, as well as our own, I think we will be stronger and closer as a result.
Where do you fall in the spectrum of truth-telling? Would you rather be told the truth with love or pandered to? Do you find it easy to be honest with others? Are you a people pleaser? Are you a bulldozer? Chances are, whatever your truth-telling style, your personality type can give you clues as to how to rise to a place of more compassion and integrity. If you don't know your type, sign up for a Discover Your Type session today!
Elizabeth Elkins is a Certified Enneagram Consultant. She offers individual, partner and group sessions, as well as workshops. For more information, go to www.enneagramnewyorkcity.com.