Learning to Speak Our Truth

When our organization started to take an intentional approach to building our culture, one of the foundational values was (and is) open communication.  While a lot goes into the idea of “open communication,” we highlighted a few phrases to define it, including:


“Speak Your Truth Without Blame or Judgement.”


Whether you have become incredibly familiar with this statement or are encountering it for the first time, finding some meaning in it for yourself can be powerful in all facets of your life (not just as a leader with us!).


Before you read the article, sit with that statement for a few minutes and ponder the following: 

  • What does it mean to you?  How would you put it in your own words?
  • How do you know when you’ve gotten to your truth?  How do you know it’s not attached to blame or judgment?
  • Think of a time where you did speak your truth without blame or judgement:  What happened or didn’t happen in that situation because of that?  What did you gain in that situation?  How did it feel then to communicate that way and how does it feel now looking back?
  • Think of a time where you did not speak your truth without blame or judgement.  What did you do instead?  What happened or didn’t happen because of that?  How do you feel about that situation?
  • What gets in the way of speaking your truth without blame or judgment?  What’s going on in situations when you feel comfortable doing it, and when you feel uncomfortable (i.e., when you avoid the situation or manage your way around it)?
  • How does it feel to be on the receiving end of someone sharing their truth: withoutblame or judgment, and with blame or judgment?
  • Think about situations or relationships you’re in right now where you feel like “speaking your truth without blame or judgment” isn’t happening.  Are you content to stay there or do you want to show up differently?  Why?  If you do want to show up differently, what’s scary about that?  How do you see yourself making it happen?

The “Bringing it Back to Leadership” question:

  • How does speaking your truth without blame or judgment relate to holding someone on your team accountable or giving them feedback on their actions and behaviors?

Okay.  Time to read the article (attached and pasted below), circle back to those questions afterwards and see what comes up.I’m curious to hear your thoughts, ideas, and challenges to this particular subject and article!  Feel free to email them to me or catch me in person sometime to talk it over.Thank you for your time, and have a great Wednesday!  -Becky

Learning to Speak Our Truth

By John Earle (article adapted)


The expression of our truth is an ancient action through which we actually discover our place in the world; the true shape of our being and our individuality. It is how we create firm boundaries, and allow others to know who we are and what we value. Because we are beings of discourse, of speech, and because we live in a world of constant communication, the ability to speak our truth without judgment or blame is as important today as it always has been. The action of speaking the truth without expectation, or the anguished imperative for change, is a great adventure in itself. It is one way we discover the nature of our personal truth as well as our self-deception.

Learning to speak our truth, using awareness, is a way we create the mirror, our reflection; how we are seen. The reflection of what we say, the reactions and responses of others, reveal to us our deeper nature, and creative spirit. With authentic communication, we discover who we are as we simultaneously become that person. We take our place in the world. Our vision manifests. Arrien* tells us “the principal guiding the visionary is telling the truth without blame or judgment.” As we learn to speak authentically in this way, we begin to fulfill our personal vision of who we are. The congruency of our speech and our action defines us. When asked what his message was Gandhi replied, famously, “my life is my message.” His life was consistent with what he spoke and taught.

Arrien tells us, “Many times we are forced at an early age to hide our true selves in order to survive. At some point this hiding becomes unnecessary, yet we find it hard to break the habit.”  We have become clever at dissembling, being quiet when we really need or want to speak, shading our truth, and hiding it behind judgment and blame. In order to get to the center of ourselves, we have to forgo these patterns and learn how to be authentic. But long established habits, and our fear, can make this very difficult.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, whenever we are feeling attacked, ridiculed, or criticized, or when our views and beliefs are discounted, belittled or ignored, we could respond skillfully, articulating our position clearly and expressing our feelings without blame or confusion; without slipping into emotional chaos? Like a great tree in a strong wind, we would bend while staying firmly rooted, combining the flexibility of an open heart with the power of our truth.

Unfortunately, when we are not in touch with our truth, our roots are sometimes shallow. Yet, it is a fundamental reality that before we can speak from our center we must know and understand what our heart and our mind contain; we must know our truth. Often the reason we become so befuddled when we feel verbally attacked or criticized, or we feel “put on the spot” is that, in the moment of confrontation, we have no idea what this truth is; the perceived attack is striking at places we have avoided, ignored or failed to explore. Sometimes, a part of us actually secretly agrees with our perceived antagonist. Naturally, we become confused and off-centered. Like the tree with shallow roots we are easily blown over. When this happens we often grasp for an old familiar reaction such as shutting down, escaping, angrily attacking back or defending ourselves. Unfortunately, every time we choose to react rather than respond we continue the cycle of ignorance that prevents us from learning the truth about ourselves as revealed in the unpleasant encounter we are experiencing. Our reaction becomes our final statement, and, we hope, the end of the experience. We try to “put things behind us.” We shut down our ability to learn. Our teacher appears and we quickly go into reaction. Often we believe our reactions are the truth, and we begin bouncing off each other’s reactions doing the old bumper car routine, like actors in a soap opera we get lost again in the never ending stories.

In a similar fashion, the natural desire to stay emotionally comfortable and move away from confrontation, discomfort and pain is another obstacle to discovering our truth. As discussed earlier, when we successfully avoid confrontation, we also rob ourselves of the rich discoveries about ourselves that are often found in painful situations, in disquieting and disturbing encounters. For instance, when we deny or ignore an unpleasant situation that has not been consciously resolved. We might go through an unpleasant encounter with our partner or boss, or even a complete stranger and simply “let it go” because we prefer not to revisit the encounter. Of course, often, we are not really “letting it go,” actually, we are “holding it in.” The unresolved energy is added to an internal storehouse of resentment and unresolved anger.

Eventually, this suppressed energy can cause emotional damage though a sudden unconscious explosion over some unrelated, even minuscule event or detail. Sometimes this anger leaks out daily, in little unpleasant interactions and passive aggressive behaviors that make us unpleasant to be with and generate a continuum of unhealthy encounters. Denying this energy exists, unfortunately, does not diffuse it.

Besides missing the lesson, another drawback to the seemingly natural and completely reasonable approach of “letting it go” or avoiding confrontation, is that it is by the engagement in these confrontations that we learn how to respond skillfully to such situations. Without these experiences we may never learn the methods needed to respond to them. Speaking the truth skillfully can only be learned by actually doing it. Avoiding, denying or ignoring these experiences insures that we will continue to handle confrontation with, what could be called, “our outdated personal software,” our well-honed, almost mindless, reactions.


*Angeles Arrien is a cultural anthropologist and author of the book “The Four-Fold Way” in which she describes the powerful and shadow sides of four different archetypes that exist within each of us (click here for summary).  She posits that paying attention to and developing a balance of those archetypes within us helps us connect to our true nature and fosters our ability to make authentic connections to others. (Becky Lemon)

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