I am very frustrated with my mother and some of her answers to things. I find that she lies or tells me things she doesn’t mean all the time. I just want her to tell the truth, even if it’s not what I would like. I think she tells me what she thinks the right answer is, instead. Like when I ask if she is going to go to something, she says no probably not, then she ends up going. Or she says she will talk to my sister about something and then she doesn’t. I have asked her repeatedly to just be honest, but this keeps happening. How can I get her to be honest?
This might be happening because she doesn't feel safe enough with you to tell you the truth. Before I explain how to make her feel safer, I want you to understand some things about human beings.
I believe, there are only two types of people on this planet:
- Fear-of-failure dominant people
- Fear-of-loss dominant people
All fear-of-failure dominant people are severely challenged at speaking their truth, they avoid confrontation, shy away from conflict, and prefer to keep everything and everyone peaceful, no matter the cost. Because of these tendencies, they are often doormats and their tendency to people please can cause a lot of relationship problems.
All fear-of-loss dominant people are very good at speaking their truth, they usually win in confrontation or conflict, and they don’t mind a good argument. Because of these tendencies, they scare the crap out of group one.
From your email, I am fairly confident you are the latter group and it might be hard for you to even imagine why speaking the truth is so hard. It’s always difficult to understand people who are vastly different from us. But fear of failure dominant have a strong subconscious program that says, “It is safer not to speak up.”
Here are two reasons some people lie:
- They might want to avoid responsibility, trouble or punishment.
- They don’t feel safe enough to tell you the truth because they are afraid of your reaction.
It sounds to me like your mother is a fear-of-failure dominant person who is terribly afraid to speak her truth to you about some of these issues. This might be because you have had a tendency in the past to react badly, react selfishly, question her motives, argue with her decisions, and otherwise dishonor her right to be where she is and want what she wants.
It is not your job to fix your mother's problems with fear, people-pleasing and lying. But you could do some things to improve the relationship and start making her feel safer with you.
You can do that by doing the following things. (These suggestions would also apply to any relationship where you want the other person to feel safe with you.)
- Create a space where they can say "no"— and respect and honor that answer. This means letting them know that you can handle a "no" without being disrespectful, passive-aggressive, angry or punishing them. Say something like, “It is OK if you can’t, I would totally understand and I will still love you if you say no.”
- Create a safe space for them to share their opinion. Again, let them know you really want to understand how they genuinely think and you promise not to disagree, tell them they are wrong or think less of them. If you do disagree, you are at least going to honor and respect their right to their opinion and would never assume you are better, smarter or more right than they are. These are just opinions.
- If they say they will do something and then don’t, don’t get mad — get curious. Ask them if they would be willing to share what scared them about doing that thing. I promise there is a fear reason. Find out the fear reason and honor and respect their right to be where they are and be afraid of that. Don’t try to fix them. Just ask if they would be willing to talk about a way to do that thing that might not be as scary.
- Do not talk down to them because they have insecurities you don’t have. Don’t see their fear as weakness or see them as less than you. If you do, they will feel this and not trust you. Instead, honor the fact that while you don’t have this problem, you have plenty of others.
- Let them have the option of staying silent. They do have the right to keep some things private and not offend you. If they reserve the right to be silent, it's because their words shouldn't be used against them. Criminals have this right; your loved ones should too. Having some things you don’t want to share with others is perfectly fine. Let the other person know that you are here if and when they want to talk, and will provide a safe place with honor and respect if they ever want to share.
- Let them have the right to do some things without you. I wonder if your mother lies about where she is going because too often you invite yourself to come with her. Give her a safe place to say, "I want to do this on my own," and don’t take that personally. Everyone has a right to feel this way.
- Be prepared to stay firmly in trust about your value. Look at this experience as your perfect classroom so you don’t get triggered in your own fear issues. Understand this is really not about you; it’s about the other person and what they need right now. Be strong enough to stay calm, loving and respectful no matter what they say. Be prepared to ask questions, listen and not make it about you. (This one is hard and takes practice, but if you can’t handle the truth they won’t give it to you. Decide what you want.)
You can do this.
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