Everyone cringed when Tom was coming near. They worried they’d be trapped. He’d talk on about everything happening in his life or ask advice about his problems. He seldom showed any interest in others. Sound familiar? I was giving a talk one day about strengthening relationships and Tom approached me after to tell me my suggestions had never worked for him. He spoke for a moment or two about how people just don’t care about what’s going on for him. My intuition told me it was a time for direct honesty. I asked John how he demonstrated that he cared about others when he was having a conversation with them? The question stopped him in his tracks. He had never thought about it. So I asked him again, “Tom, do you think you might be getting back, what you’re giving out?” Again he was silent. I could see several people snickering under their breath close by. They had never seen him speechless before. I wanted it to be a supportive environment for Tom, so I suggested that he practice the art of being interested, rather than interesting. It took him a moment or two to get it, but he left with a commitment to try. The next time I spoke at an event with Tom in the audience, he approached me again and thanked me. No one had ever pointed that out to him before. He than asked me several questions about how I was, something he’d never done before. The looks from bystanders were shock and appreciation.
The reality is that compassionate honesty is a gift we give, both to ourselves and to others. Want more honesty in your relationships? For one day, commit to compassionate honesty. Start with yourself. Write down three things you are fantastic at, and one thing you want to improve. Than as you go through your day, give positive feedback at every opportunity you see. Finally, if you see someone who is struggling with something, be honest with them, in a kind way, about what you’re seeing. The easiest way to give compassionate feedback is to ask the person questions that force them to think about it. For example “what kind of a response were you hoping to get with that action? Do you think it worked? Why?” Keep your motive to be helpful and watch what happens!