cb06676c6ec0885b5fecc91c19ab5247When we think of transparency, we often think of how the government or bureaucracies should be acting.  "If only they were more transparent, there would be less problems" (this point is debatable).  In a world where everything was transparent, you'd always know where you stood with your job, your spouse, your kids, your friends and things would happen with maximum efficiency. What most of us really want when we talk about transparency is for everyone around us to be maximally transparent, but not have to give away anything ourselves.  We demand vulnerability from the important people in our lives, all the while holding them at a distance and guarding ourselves.

Clearly this is a disempowering cycle.  If we expect from others something that we ourselves are unwilling to produce, it is only a matter of time before resentment and hypocrisy get generated in the relationship.  Resentment naturally breeds distrust, at which point we become all the more antagonized by the fact that the other side isn't being transparent ("I'm certain they're up to something - they should just tell me what's on their mind!").

Think of the last time that you were sitting with someone - significant other, friend, co-worker, etc. - and noticed something about their behaviour.  You probably caught yourself thinking "Geez, they're acting really cold/obnoxious/rude/weird.  I wish they'd just come out and tell me what's going on!".  You may even have asked directly, or checked in with them to see how they are feeling, and gotten back the response "I'm fine, it's okay, don't worry".  And of course, this leads you to spiral further in your own head: "What is their problem?!  Clearly something is wrong!"

Notice that throughout this anecdote, the demand for transparency is purely one-sided.  Rather than taking the first step yourself, you held that it was on the other person to open up to you.  To share how they were feeling and to be vulnerable.

When we do not share our own heart generously, it shuts off the possibility of creating a space for other people to do so.

Transparency begins with ourselves.  As with everything, the name of the game is being 100% responsible for how we want things to go.  Rather than coming from a place of victimhood, we can take it on ourselves to take the first step and share how we are feeling transparently.

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Imagine how different the above conversation might go if you put something like this into the space:

"Hey, I sense that you're a little closed off, and it's making me wonder if you're okay.  I know you said that you're fine, but it doesn't seem like you are.  It's making me start to get upset that you're not sharing something with me - and that's starting to make me scared that you're actually upset with me".

By being transparent and opening the door to our own homes for people in our lives, we allow for the possibility of them doing the same.  By standing with our arms crossed expecting the other side to bear their soul to us, we can expect them to maintain the same posture.

By holding things inside our own heads, we give them power over us.  Without being transparent and taking complete ownership, they stay held in place inside our heads.  Note that taking ownership is integral.  It means that transparency doesn't come out like:

"I notice that you're being withdrawn and quit, and something is obviously bothering you.  What's up?"

But rather like:

"I notice that you seem a little quieter than normal, and it makes me think that something might be bothering you.  And when you told me you were fine, it made me think that maybe you just weren't sharing with me because you're upset with me".

Ownership is part of the key to transparency.  Once we start to shine the light of day on our thoughts, it is only then that we gain the upper hand and they lose their power over us.

In the words of Ghandi, "We must be the change we seek in the world."  Get responsible, and be transparent.