How to Speak the Truth to Other People

by Melissa Coan

Photo by Unknown Author

Photo by Unknown Author

Growing up in a family where words were easily spoken and just as easily forgotten, I did not understand the power of my words. I had a knack for being honest, confrontationally speaking the truth and, like a bull in a china shop, saying all the things I knew people felt scared to say.

As I grew up, my truth-telling became more refined. I managed to hide my bull-like tendencies behind the mask of so-called genuine intentions: “I want to help my friend...” “I want him to be more aware...” “She should know this!”

Speaking in this way made me feel in control, and distracted me from myself. I would dump my words of wisdom about someone or something in order to take my eyes off my own inadequacies and guilt. Scariest of all, for the longest time, it was completely subconscious.

Still today, when I start to believe the lie I am not valuable or lovable, or I feel out of control and powerless, I sense that old temptation creeping back to deflect to someone else, get my adrenaline hit of truth-telling, and reclaim control.


There will always be things about others that we can judge or a great reason to tell someone the hard truth. There will be times when we are tempted to exert our strength when we’re hurting or feeling insecure. There will always be a seemingly justifiable reason to use our words in a powerful way. This does not mean it is right.


Our words are important.

It has taken several guilt and shame spirals and the dismantling of relationships for me to figure that out. We can speak truth, or “tell it like it is,” but here are some check-points that have helped me to consider my words before saying that “honest” thing:

— Can the other person handle what I am about to say? Words that seem straightforward to me could crush the spirit of another.

— What are my heart’s intentions when I speak “truth” into someone’s life? Is it with love, malice, or ego?

— Do I want to speak life, encouragement and hope into the world, or death and destruction?

If my conscience doesn’t stop me at one of these checkpoints, then it’s a green light for truth-telling. If it does, I have to get serious about what I’m projecting.

In the Bible, complete shifts in history have happened because of people’s spoken words. And, Jesus had a lot to say about our words. Here is the one that gets me:  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Are you producing life or death with your words? How is your heart?