Just being Honest.

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“Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom”.

Thomas Jefferson

To me being honest is not just about calling a spade a spade and to hell with the consequences. For some people it is but I do not believe that is necessarily the best or the kindest way to behave or the most productive and motivational. For the small percentage of people that a direct and blunt approach works, I find that there is a far larger percentage that it will fail to achieve anything at all helpful and in many cases actually causes more harm than good. There is no doubt that being honest and fair is the best way to live life but what you say and how you say it can be done gently and with kindness rather than with a sledgehammer and still have a powerful and motivating effect. And, it is the same when you are being honest with yourself. There is seldom any good positive motivation received when you criticize yourself and tell yourself how wrong you have got it or how badly you have done. I find that when people adopt that approach to try to motivate themselves it often has quite the opposite effect and will in fact demotivate and make them feel even more useless  and miserable ,resulting in more bad choices and poor strategies.

Yes, we need to learn how to be honest with ourselves and to stop making excuses for making poor life decisions or for holding on to strategies or behaviours that obviously do not work for us. If we do not reassess our choices and take personal responsibility to make positive changes to improve when we get it wrong, then we are unlikely to feel as happy or even as stable as we ultimately could feel and we will really just be surviving life rather than thriving in life.

To make it easier to adapt and learn new ways to behave it is important to look back objectively at the areas in our life where we feel we could do better and could improve upon. Stop looking at them as our failures and see them more as lessons we need to look over again in order to get a better understanding of them. Using the benefit of hindsight we can look back on them and decide how much better and differently we would handle it now and by figuring that out, we have also established a new and more positive strategy for ourselves.

A short sharp shock of truth can change lives but frequently that change doesn’t last. As soon as the initial shock wears off old habits can creep back in. Being straight and honest with ourselves can bring about very important life changes but I believe that by doing it gently and with kindness it will help us to maintain these changes and provide us with long term benefits.

Meeting your expectations.

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I mentioned last week that my Mum was having to go through a period of adjustment and find a new home after 23 years living in her much loved upper flat. Somehow I fell in to the trap of thinking that as soon as she had come to terms with the idea of moving everything else would just naturally fall in to place. I am clearly a glass half full type of person. What I hadn’t considered though was the impact that searching for the new home was going to have on us all.

We believed that it was going to be a simple straightforward procedure. We obviously haven’t moved a lot in our lives and certainly not recently! Mum selected houses in an area she liked, with room sizes that looked reasonable and large, fenced off enclosed gardens. She based her selections, as everyone does, on various Estate agents pictures and descriptions. Going to view the selected houses she was quite excited and looking forward to a fresh start. It was a huge shock to us both to find that many of the houses we viewed didn’t really look size wise like any of the cleverly taken photographs had suggested. Fenced gardens weren’t all completely fenced and in many cases a fenced patch would have been a more appropriate description. It felt truly awful going through someone’s much loved home knowing that whilst it was perfect for them it didn’t meet Mums needs at all. How can you criticize someone’s lovingly tended patch, when you know how proud they are of it, and how can you truthfully say you are interested when they eagerly enquire your views?

It seems to me that there is something fundamentally wrong with a system that takes pictures deliberately to mislead prospective purchasers. What does it achieve? It can only frustrate the home seller as much as the viewer and when you actually see it the disappointment is more acute than it would have been if you had known exactly what you were choosing to view.

The houses we have viewed were not bad. They were lovely homes and would have been entirely suitable for someone else, someone without two large dogs perhaps! What happens though as that everyone ends up feeling slightly let down.

Strangely viewing the stylised pictures of the houses has made me even more determined to embrace my true self and to really value the individual natures of my family and friends. There is something really refreshing about dealing with honest, direct characters after viewing so many stylised photographs that have no basis in reality.

It made me think of us as people and why it is so important to remain true to ourselves and not to try to become something that other people, but not us want us to be. A false front can’t last as it requires too much energy to keep up and to maintain .It also prevents us from actually meeting and bonding with the people who truly like us and can really relate to us. The world is full of interesting and varied individuals. How sad would life be if we turned in to well-manicured, highly polished clones of each other as some magazines would seem to suggest?

If the houses we have viewed were advertised to show them exactly as they are, the right people would view them and no doubt they would sell much more quickly by reaching the right target market. There really was nothing wrong with them in the first place. Their photographs just presented a falsely attractive image to us as we were searching for a large enclosed space. Equally the pictures may well have put off a prospective buyer looking for something smaller and more manageable .In truth it is not just the Estate agents who are at fault I think we could all benefit from being a bit more honest. Honest about what we are looking for and what we have to offer to get it. We all need to relax a little and like ourselves more. We should respect ourselves enough not to have to pretend to be what we are not. Likely we would all be much happier if we had the confidence to do so. 

As for the house hunting, well it still goes on but we have learned from this experience. Now before we go to view a house we visit the area first and drive past to get an idea of the garden size and external look of the house. If that meets Mums criteria we visit and I can honestly say we are much happier about what we have viewed. All being well we may actually be placing an offer in for one soon.

Mum has to sell her house too and we have decided that the pictures will honestly represent it. People will come to view and see exactly the same thing that attracted them in the first place. Hopefully they will like it and Mum can soon move on to the next new chapter in her life and have some fun.

Learning to Communicate .Part Two

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Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Miguel Angel Ruiz

It is all too easy to become a mind reader. To say something to someone and because we do not get the response or the reaction that we have anticipated, we suddenly start to “mind read” them which means that we make up reasons for why we think that they are behaving or responding the way they are. These judgments are based on our beliefs and values and insecurities not theirs and so are seldom accurate.  We  begin to think that they are doing this because of whatever reason we have conjured up or they are not doing this because of  and  again we conjure up another reason. We might be right but we are just as likely to be completely wrong. Seldom do we stop and think that perhaps they have not understood what we have said or they didn’t understand the importance of it and that maybe just maybe the reason for that was that we just did not communicate it as well as we thought we had. We must not be afraid to express how we feel and to say it clearly. There is seldom little point in being so subtle that your point is missed entirely unless you are attempting to be the next James Bond and you are on a secret mission. Even then I doubt he would have much success this way.

If we mind read someone we are being completely unfair to them and to ourselves. We can create problems where none actually exist and cause ourselves and them a lot of unnecessary pain and embarrassment. So why do we do it?  Mostly it is fear of something. It can be fear of rejection, ridicule or judgment. We are scared to say exactly what we mean in case they don’t agree with us and so dance around it in an attempt to gather more information and check to see if we are on the same wavelength or not before we attempt to honestly say what we feel or think .If we were being honest with ourselves though, we need to ask the question why would we want to be with someone romantic or simply a friend who was not on the same wave length as us? What benefit is there to having to conceal our true personality, thoughts and feelings? If we express ourselves truthfully and they ridicule or reject us surely we have just saved ourselves a lot of time and potential heartache?

To be happy in life we need to learn to be true to ourselves and not hide away pretending to be something we are not. We should recognize that we all have our strengths and weaknesses and not be afraid to express ourselves honestly. This enables us to learn from past mistakes and move forward in life, happier, healthier and more confidently. To be able to do this we need to communicate well with others and to do that we need to be fair and honest. Say what we mean and be prepared to listen to the other person’s point of view and perhaps learn from it. If a friend or a partner has done something that has hurt us we need to be able to sit with them and explain why we feel the way that we do and not just react without giving them a chance to explain their actions. We may find that they were completely unaware of how strongly we felt and had no ill intent .Instead of reacting to people and situations instantly it helps to calmly sit and discuss what is going on and learn from it. Do not create unnecessary drama and heartache in your life when by simply taking the time to chat you could find out one way or another what is really going on and why. If someone refuses to communicate with you, then let it be known that you are open for discussion and then leave it up to them. There is no point in chasing after or worrying about someone who will not give you the opportunity to explain yourself or their actions. Let it go and get on with your life. You will find that it may eventually then get resolved but it certainly won’t if you keep going at it without a pause.

When it is a marriage or a close relationship that has broken down it is important to be clear and not hostile in any communications. It really doesn’t matter who is to blame for the break up particularly if there are children involved. What matters more is that if you still need to communicate with each other for whatever reason that you do it in a straightforward way. It is wiser not to have a hidden agenda as they will only hurt you in the end. Be honest and as fair as you can be and you will at least respect yourself, if not the other party. At the end of the day it is how you behave that will make you feel good or bad about yourself when you reflect on it in the future. To allow you to be happy in the future always make sure that you can look back and know that you did your best. Learning how to communicate honestly and directly is one of the basic keys to happiness and well worth practicing daily.