Monday at eight prompt, your mother-in-law is making a surprise baby shower for your sister-in-law. To make sure there are no mix-ups (and no excuses) your mother-in-law sent you an evite, a confirmation email, two texts and a What’s App. On each of these, she highlighted “eight prompt,” and she added a P.S. which read “please be prompt.”
Promptness not being your strong point, you record the time of Monday’s party in your calendar as seven-thirty, set hourly phone alarms beginning at four, and give your children permission to call you at work to make sure you leave on time.
By six, supper is on the table, and by seven the kids are settled enough for you to start getting ready. Since you’re ahead of schedule, you decide you have enough time to wash the dishes, and while you’re deep in bubbles, your best friend calls. Engrossed in the conversation, you fail to notice the time passing, and before you realize, it’s five after eight, and prompt has come and gone.
You drop the sponge, hang up on your friend, and lunge for your coat and purse. It’s a twelve-minute drive if you make all the lights. Shouting goodbye to your family, you sprint to the car, thrust the key into the engine, and listen in horror as all you hear is a grinding sound which makes you wonder if there’s a cat taking up residence under your hood. You run back into the house, locate your husband, and, wrenching Goodnight Moon out of his hands, stammer that you need his car keys.
You sprint out the door, race to your mother-in-law’s house, and arrive well after the surprise has been sprung.
Try as you might to avoid a tet-a-tet with your mother-in-law, she corners you in the kitchen and asks/demands to know why you’re late. Being an honest person, you look her in the eye and say, “My car wouldn’t start.”
That answer is undoubtedly honest. It is factual. However, you did not tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You were honest, but not open.
Being open means offering the truth in a complete and unfiltered fashion, without any tweaks or detours. Open means frank; straightforward; unprotected; undisguised. It means relinquishing whatever version of the narrative puts you in the best light or makes you the most comfortable. Being open means allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
Do you always need to be open? Nope.
Not every interaction requires openness, nor does every relationship. The level of openness you have in a relationship informs the level of emotional intimacy. You might share things with your spouse or sibling that you wouldn’t share with a coworker, even if you spend the majority of your waking hours with that coworker and see your sibling only once a year. The more emotionally intimate the relationship, the more open you’ll choose to be.
You get to decide what level of openness you offer another individual at any given time. Even if the other person demands more openness and tries to pressure and manipulate you into providing it, the choice remains yours whether you feel safe and comfortable enough to agree to it.
If all your relationships are emotionally intimate, you might discover that you overshare in an attempt to bring people closer, even when not appropriate. If none of your relationships are emotionally intimate, fear might be holding you back.
To create stronger connections with others, a certain amount of openness is required. Might you get hurt? Yes. Nobody is perfect, and even in a warm, reciprocal relationship, there’s bound to be some friction or discomfort at some point. However, if you never open yourself up, you also lose out on having deep, meaningful relationships where you can be your true, unique self.
As a speaker, workshop leader, and addictions counselor, I help people identify what they want out of relationships and offer them the tools to achieve their goals. To arrange a consultation or learn more about courses, please contact me here.