(OPRAH.com) -- I was talking to my friend Greg a few months ago and he told me a poignant and powerful story about speaking his truth. He was in a grocery store and saw a woman yelling at her children in a cruel way.
He walked over to the woman and said, "Excuse me, would you please treat those children with kindness and love?" She looked at him and said, "Mind your own business, these are my kids."
Greg replied by saying, "If you were doing this in your living room, it would be just your business, but you're doing it here in front of me. I'm standing over here with my heart aching for these children as I hear you speak to them like that, so I decided to come over and say something to you about it."
The woman then told him to stick it up his you-know-what, grabbed her kids and rushed out to the parking lot to drive away.
Greg then said to me, "Mike, I don't know if I did the right thing or the wrong thing. My legs were shaking as I talked to her. I was so scared, upset and emotional."
"But," Greg said, "I'll tell you what -- when I walked away I noticed something interesting: I wasn't blaming anyone. Normally, I wouldn't have said anything and I would have blamed myself for not speaking up, the woman for treating her kids like that, or our culture for creating the environment where things like that happen and no one does anything about it."
"However, since I spoke up I was at peace and not wasting any time or energy blaming anyone. I have no idea if what I said made an impact on that woman, but I don't have to live with her, I have to live with myself."
I sat there stunned when I heard Greg tell me this story. I said to him, "Wow, that was bold. I'm not sure I would've had the courage to say that to her, but I'm glad you did."
3 ways to speak your truth:
How do we enhance and deepen our capacity to speak our truth with kindness, love and authenticity? There are lots of things we can do to accomplish this. Here are three to think about:
• Stop managing other people's feelings. I know this one well, as I can be the king of trying to manage other people's feelings. It's arrogant, manipulative and somewhat ridiculous to think we have the power to manage other people's emotions.
We also use it as a cop-out to not really speak our truth. We can be aware and mindful of other people and how they might feel (so we don't end up being mean and hurtful on purpose), but when we let go of taking care of others in a condescending way, it frees us and them up to be grown-ups and have adult conversations, which sometimes can get a little sticky or tense when we're speaking our truth.
• Be real, not right. This is huge when it comes to speaking our truth. When we focus on winning or being right, we no longer can access the deepest places within our heart, which is where our real truth comes from.
When we let go of our attachment to the outcome of a conversation, what the other person thinks and our erroneous obsession with always having to be right, we give ourselves the opportunity to get real.
Being vulnerable and transparent are the key elements of speaking our truth, not dominating the conversation and the person (or people) we're talking to.
• Practice. Like anything and everything else in life, the best way for us to get better, deepen our capacity and grow is to practice. In this case, as we're talking about speaking our truth, it's not about role-playing per se (although if that helps give you the courage to have a difficult conversation, go for it). It is about speaking up and stepping into your life with your truth.
Will you mess it up? Of course! Will you say the wrong things sometimes? Yes. Will people get upset, offended or defensive at times? Absolutely. This is not about being perfect, it is about being yourself and speaking authentically.
Have empathy and compassion with yourself as you practice -- this is not easy for most of us. Even for those of us who have really worked to expand our capacity to speak our truth and have had many experiences of doing it in a powerful way, remember that each situation is always new and different.
And, in certain areas of life (or with specific people), speaking up can be incredibly scary and challenging for us. Even if your legs shake, your voice quivers or your heart races (all of which usually happen when we get real and vulnerable), take a deep breath, dig down for the courage you have within you and be willing to speak your truth. When we do this, we can watch our relationships and lives literally transform.
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