Emotional Transparency: How to be honest without causing problems

by | Feb 7, 2017 | Emotional Transparency

Regardless of which approach you take to repairing your relationship, there is one fundamental requirement that can’t be avoided.

If you want to connect authentically with your partner, there needs to be a commitment to emotional transparency, or habitual truth-telling.

Now when you hear this you may cringe. Many people think that being honest all the time is like asking for trouble.

But if done properly, emotional transparency releases pent-up resentments, and creates lighthearted, deeply connected and drama-free relationships.

Emotional Transparency: Why it’s hard

Even the most honest people are not always emotionally transparent with their partners. That’s because many of us have learned how to hide our feelings in order to keep the peace or reinforce old, limiting beliefs. But in order to create an authentic and conscious relationship, those automatic responses that serve to hide emotions must be unlearned. 

It helps to know what the barriers to real honesty are. (And that it’s not your fault if you learned to hide your feelings in order to survive!) Notice what stops you from being transparent, and give yourself permission to let it go.

What gets in the way of true honesty:

1) You are trying to uphold a certain image in your partner’s eyes. You fear the truth will ruin your “reputation.”
2) Your original connection with your partner was founded on the withholding of truth. This could mean hiding vulnerabilities, desires or even betrayals. In these cases, hiding the truth becomes a force of habit which outweighs the desire to be truly seen.
3) You fear your partner’s reaction. They may not like it, and you fear they will withdraw. Or you may fear how they will make meaning of what you share.

These fears are much easier to let go of once we understand that all we can do is share our truth, and we are not responsible for what others do with that information.

And more importantly, there is a way to be honest that greatly helps you connect with your partner.

Emotional Transparency: What it really is

Being emotionally transparent is a way of being truly honest about YOU. It just means sharing what comes up in you that prevents closeness in the relationship. It could be fear, anger, sadness, resentment. In fact, at the deepest level, true honesty is rarely about anything else.

That’s because closeness-promoting honesty is not about telling your partner what you think of them. It’s about sharing observations about yourself without blame or projection.

This requires vigilantly avoiding “you statements” or any arguable interpretations. Anytime we speculate on our partner’s intentions or make judgments, we are entering into arguable territory.

You may ask: “But what if there is something really bothering me about my partner?” In this case, you could ask to share your observation with your partner. But you must relinquish control over the outcome and accept that they may not agree. However, if you stick to your own reactions, you are more likely to be heard because you avoid triggering defensiveness.

Emotional transparency takes a commitment to owning your interpretations rather than identifying with them, and sharing observations about emotions. It is NOT an effort to analyze or confront.

If this sounds hard, remember that committing to this is nothing less than transformational. Being truthful clears resentments, fosters emotional connection, and allows us to be fully seen. And that is the whole point of healthy authentic relationships!

Emotional Transparency:  3 Key Guidelines

In order to truly live out a commitment to emotional transparency, you’ve got to keep in mind these three guidelines.

1)      When you are upset, unsettled, disconnected, or blocking closeness with your partner, tune into how you feel (not what you think). The key here is finding emotion words, not interpretations. It helps to remember that it almost always comes down to only a few things: fear, sadness, anger, disappointment.

2)      Only once you have identified the emotion, share it as an observation about yourself. For example: “When you X, I noticed I felt Y and I’m struggling with that now.” If you must share an interpretation, do it from the place of observation, not identification.  So rather than “You totally disrespected me,” say “I interpreted what you did as disrespect, and then I felt angry.” See the difference? The latter cannot be argued with.

3)      Do not try to control how your partner responds. If they aren’t sure how to respond, or if you feel misunderstood, remember that by committing to these steps you are being honest and brave. You can feel clear that you have not “started any problems.” Your partner’s reaction is about them , not you. Sometimes when one person makes a change, their partner needs time to absorb this  new way of being. But the vast majority of the time, emotional transparency results in greater connection right away.

If you follow these three rules, the blaming/judging aspects of your relationship will fall away and all the energy you spent holding resentments is now free to spend in a flow of love and ease.

Even if your partner is not involved in this commitment, if you follow these tenets, you will create inevitable change in your dynamics.

So get ready for some truth-telling and prepare for transformation!

Good luck and let me know how it goes in the comments below.

P.S. If you know anyone who could benefit from this post, please share! 🙂


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