Straight talk is a powerful and necessary skill. First, understanding the nuance of what straight talk really is and second, practicing, and eventually, mastering. I think that most conversations are cloudy. By cloudy I mean that the communication is filled with extraneous beliefs, feelings, messages, thoughts and “stuff” that obscures the pristine point trying to be communicated and the heart-felt intention holding the communication.
Straight talk cuts through the cloud, and delivers exactly what needs to be communicated, without reference to anything other than the message. Here are a few benign examples:
The light is on. Please turn it off.
I’m cold. I am turning the air conditioner temperature up.
My gas tank is empty.
These examples are not a problem, unless of course there is a hidden feeling about lights being left on and the delivery of “Please turn it off” carries resentment, anger and frustration. Maybe you see where I’m going.
It is a practice
Straight talk is my current practice. In some situations, my conversation is very clear and meets the moment with exquisite care, compassion and clarity. A client meeting with a surviving spouse, grieving and moving through the next steps of her life, was masterful. It was easy for me to hold her and be with her, ask beautiful questions, listen for her needs and expectations, and offer just enough. My intention was to be fully present with her, offer all of myself, allow the meeting to unfold with ease and generous space, and love her.
No clouds of needing to do, fixing a problem, being helpful, displaying my wisdom, or any number of ego-driven ideas had my grip. No fears, doubts, confusion were taking up space in my mind. My state of mind was clear. My body was open, vulnerable and receptive. These are the experiences that provide a continuum for growth and the delight in being simply human. This is the “hard-to-describe” space and experience that makes it possible to provide an exceptional authentic connection; and in this situation, an exceptional client experience.
Regretfully this experience is a fraction of my time communicating – which is why I am committed to practice.
With clients, my presence and straight talk is unwavering; with family, colleagues, my beloved, and even myself, I still struggle, a lot.
Straight talk with an adult child
My daughter graduated from college last December with a degree in Communications and a minor in film studies. She does not want a career in this field and knew so during her junior year. Her talents have always been in the graphic arts and she wants to be an animator. Her style, energy and pace are very different from mine when it comes to taking action and pursuing a goal. My expectations of her having a job and living independently have long exceeded their timeframe. I’ve had many clouded conversations with her. These conversations carried my frustration, expectations, parenting confusion, and a long line of family beliefs and behaviors too many to name. (And this is only half of the equation; my spouse, her dad, contributed his clouds, which then met my clouds and became a big cluster cloud!) Up until a straight talk day, every conversation I had with her was cloudy. What happened on this day? Glad you asked.
I was clear with my spouse that I wanted us to be on the same page and communicate directly with our daughter. Our straight talk would create a clean line of communication and clarity about what we saw in her behavior, two roads depicting the next stages of her short-term life, and the expected outcome of each road. The joint clarity, aligned with our values and intentions, allowed us to cleanly deliver the message with love. Our intention is to be supportive but not enable her. Our values of being generative humans and consciously creative were infused in our message. Our message was accompanied by a drawing , for our visual expert. Our daughter got it. Her behavior, motivation and actions have shifted, somewhat. And, I continue to practice, get up and wipe my bruises, and practice some more.
I’m also practicing straight talk with myself – which may sound odd. Straight self-talk means that I commit to be honest with myself rather than delusional. Most of us have ingrained habits of delusion built by an ego protecting us from pain and suffering. So, as we grow and uncover the ego’s way of offering support, our ability to practice straight self-talk emerges with more ease. If you are a regular reader, you are well aware that Somatic Finance deeply moves me and is one of the primary focuses of my life energy, now. It is the bridging of my life’s work in financial planning, integral theory, integral coaching and body wisdom. Writing about it is my highest priority.
Yet, I have been deluding myself with distractions that take me away from this high priority. Underneath my distractions is a bedrock of terror. Yes, in a recent meditation retreat where I experienced enough space to access my inner sacred body wisdom, I unearthed this subtle shimmering veil of terror. The terror had no content; it just was. If I had ignored this gift, I would have stayed in delusion. But I did not. I welcomed the experience to feel the depth and subtle nuance – a deep river flow that lives in all of us.
Straight talk emerges from experiencing the terror, or any other held energy stuck in the body.
In many ways it is much easier for me to continue my work in my financial planning practice. I have an identity, a credible reputation, my spouse is my partner, and I’m really good at what I do. But financial planning does not move me like it used to; even the evolved integral wealth approach we have applied for over fifteen years. I used to love it. Now, I struggle. Straight talk is penetrating my knowing and telling me to be honest, get real, clear the space, create structure, and write. Communicate the truth with straight talk to myself and to my colleagues and partners.
What are the ingredients to straight talk?
Feel your feelings, move your body, and allow the energy of your emotions and sensations to flow toward an opening. This opening points to clarity. Allow this clarity of what you want to say emerge from the truth in your body – no confusion, no doubt, no waiting.
In my study with Kathlyn Hendricks she names this way of communicating as speaking the unarguable truth. The words spoken out of your mouth are unarguable which means that no one can argue with what you say, because it is the truth spoken from you. If someone does argue, you know that you have not practiced speaking unarguably or straight talk. The practice of speaking the unarguable truth supports straight talk.
Speaking straight has a bit more zip and power and direction in my experience. It doesn’t dance around and waver. It gets right to the point of what needs to be said.
Straight talk can be confused with mean talk. Instead of experiencing straight talk as clean, I might cloud it up. I might judge talk to be wrong or harmful. This is listening with a filter of complaint or listening for errors. It is not being present with the situation but outsourcing to the past or the future.
Straight talk goes both ways: how you speak and how you listen. Listening for clarity is equally important to speaking straight. It is in the listening and responding that you refine and master straight talk.
Straight talk can also be straight writing, as in a letter or written communication. Recently I wrote a four-page letter to my father in response to a request he made about a gift he gave me. Indian giver is not quite right but it offers a flavor of the request. Upon reading his letter, I felt angry then sad. These feelings moved through me toward my truth. Allowing myself to have my experience without judgment or constraint opened my mind and heart to the straight talk written in my letter back to him. His response to mine was nothing short of deep love and respect.
Straight talk in money situations
Straight talk in money situations is crucial. Clouding a conversation with “I don’t want to be mean, or scare, or confuse,” by sharing this “bad news.” First, it is only bad news if you view it that way. This news might actually be liberating and in fact, it will liberate. For example, a person is deficit spending (meaning expenses exceed income), a clouded statement might look like: I’m really sorry to tell you but there are some real problems with your cash flow. I’m really worried that you are not going to survive in your retirement years. This statement may seem harmless and is more often than not used by professionals. It seems innocent and truthful. And, it is filled with clouds of judgment, fear and future-oriented. What would straight talk be? Here: One of your goals is to live within your means. Currently you are spending more money than you bring in. There are two ways to live within your means: 1) increase income or decrease expenses.
The above straight talk is clean. It holds the listener with compassion and wisdom. From this space, potential ideas and strategies emerge aligned with the values and motivation of the client.
How to know if it is straight talk
How do you know you are talking straight? You gage your straight talk practice by the response of the person or people with whom you communicate. Straight talk is not about being pretty, poetic or nice. It holds truth, wisdom, compassion and no extras. Messages that are clean can be received and digested far easier than cloudy ones. When I receive straight talk, something pierces me in an unforgettable way. I learn. I grow. I am moved. I change. When I deliver straight talk, I have the same unforgettably clean experience. Something distinctly different happens and the connection with the other is an open Mobius strip of communion.
With stainless clarity,
P.S. One more crucial point, straight talk leaves no residue, zilch. So, if your mind continues to ruminate or worry or wonder about the exchange, after the experience, you did not practice and experience straight talk.