I can’t say I have ever met anyone who said they didn’t value honesty. Whether in close personal relationships, work relationships, companies they do business with, their government, etc.
The thing about honesty though is that it must be complete. It must not only include the things we want to hear, but also the difficult things we would rather not hear at times. And that is where the problem lies. Most of us only want “limited” honesty. Not honesty in it’s fullness and entirety.
How can we say that honesty is a value of ours if we feel attacked and we get defensive every time someone confronts us? We cant, truly. That is duplicity. Contradicting values live within us if we are unwilling hear criticism, or own our mistakes.
Defensiveness is a perception of a threat – whether real or false. That threat (most often false) then leads to feeling the need to defend ourselves. To protect or guard. But, what about the many times that we are not under attack at all? Why defend? Because fear says, “You will not be loved” and shame says, “You are not good enough.”
Without fear, without shame, and without feeling the need to defend, we are truly free! Free to be separate from it all. Then, from that place of separateness, we can honestly evaluate, “Is there truth in what they are saying?” If there is, “What is my part in this? What is my responsibility? What is me, and what is them?”
1.) Listen to understand (don’t interrupt, don’t think about your response. Actually listen.)
2.) If you feel yourself wanting to defend, don’t respond yet. Say you need to use the bathroom. Anything. Just don’t react in defensiveness.
3.) Calm down. Breathe. Reflect on what was said and evaluate the truth in it. Something does not have to be entirely true to have some relevance of responsibility on your part.
4.) Return to the conversation with a clear understanding and loving response. Be careful not to minimize their feelings. Affirm them. Take responsibility where it is needed, and apologize for your part.
Not many feelings are more hurtful than not feeling heard, understood, considered, or loved. Defensiveness destroys intimacy.
Can you still say that you value honesty? If you do, let your responses indicate that.