The Problem with “Speaking Your Truth”

Several times now I’ve run into the “trump card” of the new age spirituality movement here in Ubud known as “speaking one’s truth” when dealing with a disagreement.  

It’s baffling because it’s celebrated as being one of the highest values by those claiming to be selfless – and yet is so deeply rooted in selfishness.  

(It also seems to go hand-in-hand with those who proclaim to be working for the greater good, to raise the collective consciousness, etc.)

The conversation usually goes something like this:  There’s a disagreement about a topic, and the way that the other party asserts their right to their point of view is that they are simply speaking their truth.  

Regardless of whether or not that “truth” is backed up by facts or not. 

Regardless of how that “truth” impacts the other party.  

It’s like a magic elixir for dealing with conflict: I get my way no matter what because I’m “speaking my truth”, and that’s that.

Worse still, if you don’t “honor my truth” then you embody all the ways (which paradoxically) I’m actually acting – selfish, inconsiderate, dishonorable, etc.

Most recently I ran into this with a woman who I’d hired to do some modeling work to showcase my villa for AirBnB. (Maybe that’s the first warning sign here…!)

Spoiler alert: The model was cut from this video

The photo shoot turned out terrific.  Nothing risqué.  It’s was lifestyle architecture photography showing off the villa with a professional photographer, his assistant, and loads of high-quality equipment (including a drone).  

However a week after the shoot the model changed her mind and decided she didn’t like how the photos would be used.

Keep in mind here that she came to the shoot knowing that the photos would be put online.  She was paid for her work.  And she even put photos from the shoot online that the photographer took – that is, in order to promote herself.

She didn’t like it when I brought up the fact that she’d agreed to the shoot knowing that they’d be put online. I showed her our written conversation where I explained this.  Her reply?  That she “misunderstood things”, and that she was now “re-asserting her boundaries” and “speaking her truth”.  Sigh.

In the spirit of compromise, she asked me to send over all the footage from the shoot so that she could have a look before any of it was publicly shared.  I did.

Before she had even seen the footage tho, she was again “re-asserting her boundaries” and “speaking her truth” by telling me that I couldn’t use the footage the way it was intended.  She’d “gotten clear” on this.

When we disagreed, she questioned my integrity by saying “that if I am decent and respectful then I won’t overstep her boundaries and ignore her request.”

(Note the clever use of questioning one’s honor to get your way, even when not honoring what you’d previously agreed to.)

Then she took it a step further.  She invoked our friendship as a means of getting her way, saying that she’d helped me as a friend.  That it wasn’t work.  Except on the day of the shoot she wanted to be paid in bitcoin, not cash.  

(Funny thing is she didn’t know how to actually use bitcoin. So who helped her get setup with bitcoin?  Get her wallet setup on her phone, explain the technology, even help her recover coins from a third party?  That’d be me.)

So now we have a situation where I’ve helped someone as a friend.  But that friendship isn’t much of a two-way street because that “friend” is now invoking a toxic combination of our friendship + the “honoring of her truth” to get her way.

Again this is while acknowledging that she “misunderstood things” initially.  And while using some of the footage to promote herself online.  All the while saying that I’m forbidden from doing so because that would be “violating her boundaries” here – and then threatening to have her lawyer contact me if I didn’t do as she demanded.

(Very friendly.)

The kicker here? This is a person who is paid to teach people how to act with more integrity.  In fact she’s a life coach.  Or as she bills herself, a “transformational coach”, for which she charges $200 an hour for one-on-one sessions.

The moral of the story is not one of conflict between people.  Conflict is part of life.  The moral here is that when I hear someone invoke “speaking their truth” as a means of dealing with conflict, it means that they likely don’t give a damn how whatever they’re saying or however they’re acting affects the other party.  

Speaking your truth is great.  Not being considerate of how that truth impacts others isn’t.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

P.S. Way more morals to this story (or better yet, learning lessons for me) about why mixing business and friendship can be so toxic, the value of contracts, etc.