Building Healthy Relationships: The Habit of Candor

Many times we walk on eggshells with those we love most, or avoid contact altogether when things get uncomfortable, rather than being forthright by using words to work through our differences. Ed bacon, in his book 8 Habits of Love says, “when we fail to use our words, it leads to unexpressed anger and resentment that feeds our fearful selves and starves our loving selves.” Fear-based avoidance of frank conversations sets us up to act out our resentments or other difficult feelings in ways that can affect relationships negatively. Silence invites wild misinterpretations and unfounded assumptions. When we find a skillful way and an opportune time to use our words to get at the heart of the matter, we can cut through the fear and all the resentments and misunderstandings. The habit of candor means using our words so we can give voice to our loving selves in such a way that the other person can more easily move from his or her fearful self to a loved and loving self.

Using candor in our relationships requires courage. Many times we are afraid to be honest and frank in our conversations because we are self-sabotaged by the fear that the person we are addressing will become angry or leave us; we fear being left alone in the world. So we can face these difficult decisions with an open heart, we must learn to assess whether the fears are really warranted; we must trust the skillful use of our words can deepen the relationship. When two people engage in healthy exchanges of words with open hearts, the relationship will grow deeper and even more secure.

To practice candor successfully, we must avoid at all costs criticizing someone’s being and pushing him or her into a fear-fueled defensive posture. Our intent must be to solve problems together rather than to judge or belittle; our approach must be one of honesty combined with tactful communication. When we seek to impose our “truth” or power on someone else through criticism or judgment, then we are engaging in a power play over that person.

We all have the strength within us to engage in courageous conversations. Candor is a great compliment to pay to another; it means you are engaging in a risk-filled action while protecting the other person, yourself, and the relationship from deterioration. The act of candor is an act of care – care of self, care of others, and care of the relationship. Candor is also an act of love and faith.

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