On saying the unspoken - why honesty is hard but important.
There are conversations, then there are conversations. Conversations that make your heartbeat flutter. Where you feel walls slowly dissolving around you. Conversations that allow you to see another view, or make you feel less alone. When reflecting on your past interactions, it’s those interactions that tend to stand out.
Conversations that hold that weight can teach, inspire or heal. It’s those conversations that change things, or spark new ideas. Some of the most intimate moments in life are born from conversations that venture into this often murky, unfamiliar territory.
Saying the things typically left unspoken is where we grow and develop. In that uncomfortable, but truthful unspoken lies the stretch. Our steps towards a more honest, open society. The mother telling her family she needs to prioritise herself more. A friend, delivering the harsh but much needed truth to help a friend heal.
What is this ‘unspoken’ you speak of?
Saying the unspoken ranges from small daily interactions (let’s call them… mini unspokens) through to confrontations and passionate conversations on big, complex topics (big unspokens). A mini unspoken is telling a friend you’ve spent all your fun budget for the week so you can’t go to an impromptu comedy show, asking your roommate to be more considerate with the dishes or being upfront with your partner on what you truly want for dinner (answer: pasta or mash potato always).
Mini vs. big unspokens - the benefit of both.
Mini unspokens are valuable for many reasons. Whilst telling a friend you can’t afford something may initially feel embarrassing or uncouth (because we’ve been conditioned to pretend we can afford everything because having and spending money is a sign of power or something but we must never discuss our financials, darling), is actually really good for you AND for your friend.
Why? It normalises budgeting - which is actually cool now - and showing restraint in spending will help you stress less over money and feel more in control. Practising this mini unspoken will hopefully eventuate in developing good spending habits and prioritising our spending on the things that truly make us happy, not what we feel we must spend to ‘keep up’. Secondly, being honest about these things empower others too as well. Applying honesty in small moments can add up to make infinitely better choices for your long term self, as well as showing kindness to others.
The bigger unspokens are a bit harder to say. They are the thoughts we often keep to ourselves and may result in an uncomfortable conversation when someone has upset you, admitting you’re feeling self conscious or sharing what you are most afraid of in life.
Speaking the bigger unspokens means reaching down into your bottom drawers of your mind, and sharing with others what you’ve stored away in there.
Both the mini unspokens and the big ones require strength, as it’s being open, vulnerable and honest. Only after one of these ‘big unspoken’ conversations, does one realised that sharing them is a form of kindness and an act of love.
Once shared, the big unspokens loose some of their power.
One big unspoken currently running through my mind is feeling the strangeness of life.
A person who values knowledge, curiosity, evidence, growth and truth may get to a point where they cannot shy away from the oddity that is this life. When you reach that point where you understand the sheer rarity of our existence, the fragility of life, the intricacies of consciousness and how not-in-control we are of most things it can be a confronting time. I’ve since learnt it’s just the typical quarter life existential crisis, no biggie.
But by sharing those big thoughts with people, I’m learning it’s a normal part of growing and expanding as a thinking, feeling adult human.
When unspokens are internalised, those thoughts can accidentally create an imaginary pet hamster running on a thought wheel. It’s easy to feel you’re the only one with a mind-hamster thinking those thoughts.
On honesty as an act of kindness.
Illustrator Sarah Firth shares many of what could be big unspokens, however by exploring them openly she connects with others who are feeling the exact same.
Kind people are interesting, not because they have done extraordinary things, but because they are attentive, self-aware listeners and reliable honest correspondents of the tremors of their own minds and hearts. They thereby give us faithful and fascinating accounts of the pathos, drama and strangeness of being alive. - The School Of Life on Kindness.
By applying courage and honesty, you can take the intimidating but infinitely rewarding route. By voicing these ‘big unspoken’ words of how you are truly thinking or feeling you may find that hey - others feel and think things too. That feeling alone is powerful. As a bonus you may get tools, advice and new perspectives.
This is why artists like Mari Andrew, Sarah Firth or the writers behind The Big Feels Club resonate so strongly with their communities. The big unspokens they articulate and put out there make people feel understood, seen and less alone.
Should we really speak these unspokens? Or would society fall apart?
If we all went around speaking what is on our minds, what would happen? For a culture that parades truth and honesty as an admirable trait, are we mature enough as a whole society to broadly accept the consequences of complete, unfiltered honesty?
There are people who share themselves fully, but they are rare. Until we get better at sharing more of ourselves, the ratio of conversations vs. those types of conversations will forever be skewed in the way of surface level interactions over deep interactions.
Although saying the unspoken can initially feel uncomfortable, it’s the deep experiences of being vulnerable and speaking truthfully that creates change, connection and progress. Otherwise we’re just scratching the surface of what we could be sharing.
The choice is ours, with every conversation we have.
Having these conversations is difficult. It requires vulnerability, awareness, empathy and truly listening to others as well as listening to ourselves. True listening without premature and automatic judgement, applied to others, and our own internal hamsters.
Being real isn’t easy. But the long-term impact of the alternative is much more scarier.