Speak Your Truth


Last week, I had the honor of presenting to the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce. My topic: Effective Communication to Overcome Obstacles. I was thankful to have a handful of familiar faces in the crowd and glad to meet some new and interesting students.

Afterward, a few of those familiar faces sent me photos from my presentation. I noticed a theme, the slide with the image “Speak Your Truth” was appearing in most of the photos. While I only spent about 60 seconds on this slide, it is my favorite of them all and I believe, when practiced one of the most impactful techniques to manage our work relationships.


“Speak Your Truth”. What does this mean, anyway? I suppose it could mean a lot of different things depending on who you are and where you are coming from. I’ll give you my interpretation. To me, speaking your truth in the workplace means aligning what is in your heart with what comes out of your mouth or even your facial expressions and body language. Some examples:

– Asking for clarity on an assignment you were just handed.
– Telling your workmate that your feelings were hurt when they made a cruel remark.
– Setting aside time to “hash it out” instead of rushing through decisions.
– Confidently commanding a specific action when you truly are the expert in the room.
– Truly “not worrying about it” when the matter is trivial, and moving on to more important matters.
– Expressing frustration and disappointment for deadlines that have not been met.

These are just a few examples, there are many more I could name. Much of time, instead of engaging in the behavior I noted, we avoid or accommodate others. We don’t want to make waves, or be a burden. We rush through the relational side of business and keep marching towards our more easily quantifiable goals. A lot of the time we act this way because well, it’s the only way we know. We learned it in school or at our first job and we haven’t been taught otherwise. Or, we seek to please and are fearful of the consequences. We ask ourselves questions like: what will they think of me? What if they quit? You know, all the questions we use to justify keeping quiet.

Ultimately though, there is a consequence. Resentment builds, we send mixed signals, we remain “mysterious” and/or difficult to read and that creates conflict, stress or tension (whatever the heck you want to call it) in the workplace relationship. This becomes a cycle and continues…sometimes indefinitely. From there, two things can tend to happen. We get sick of putting up our facet and those on the receiving end are frustrated too. If you are the one “faking it”, you will have stress of some sort, you will be emotionally drained and likely to erupt. Others could and probably will quit. Maybe they will still “work” for you but they will quit following you, quit giving you their best work, quit looking up to you. Trust will be lost and loyalty will die.

To “Speak Your Truth” takes a whole lot of courage, bravery and even some finesse. Sometimes we need time to process our truth, to find the best words and way to say things. We need time and energy. We need trust and the benefit of the doubt when we mess up and we will probably need some forgiveness too. I encourage you, take the post seriously and consider making the shift from holding back your truth to speaking it.