Have you ever heard “Tell the truth because it’s easier to remember the truth then it is to remember what lie you told”? I remember my dad telling me this when I was a little. I can’t recall what specifically prompted him to say it, but my guess is he recognized that I couldn’t keep my stories straight. Regardless though, it’s been something that has stuck with me.
It makes me think about how many times many of us tell what is known as “little white lies.” Google defines a white lie as “a harmless or trivial lie.” A perfect example is when a wife says, “does this outfit look OK” to her husband. That is a very loaded question for the husband. Does he err on protecting her feelings and the possibility of being on the receiving end of a silent treatment that may ensue afterward if he is truthful? Sorry to all the husbands and boyfriends out there. I don’t think we ladies realized what an awkward position we were putting you in when we asked that question; at least I can say that is true for me.
Now that I have apologized let’s move on to the point. These white lies can come from a sense of fear and a sense of compassion but rarely from a desire to deceive. Our natural desire and tendency to avoid hurting someone’s feelings is what gets in our way of telling the truth.
What impact does it have on team members and the performance of the organization? How many times have you told someone they did a great job on a presentation, a report, or any number of tasks when in reality, you thought the person tried hard but could have done better, and you had ideas of how they could improve but didn’t tell them? I know I have done this more than once. My natural desire to want to avoid hurt and pain because I know that it doesn’t feel good is what drives me to avoid sharing information that may hurt someone else’s feelings.
What I have learned, though, is by not sharing the truth with someone, I am hurting them more than if I tell the truth. And I have also learned that I must be open to hearing the truth as well. If we genuinely care for someone, wouldn’t we want to say something that is going to help the person be the best they can be? For example, if I have information that I know is important to share with you and I talk too much and don’t get to the point, you probably are going to stop listening to me. You will nod your head as if you agree with what I am saying, but mentally you have checked out. Think about how much better my communication would be if you took the time to share that feedback with me? Or in my case, the feedback I received several years ago was that I wasn’t speaking up and sharing my ideas and opinions. That feedback has been one that has helped me in my professional career and relationships and my relationships. And it was done because the people genuinely cared for me and wanted to see me grow.
So, what do we have to do to get to the point where we can have candid, truthful conversations? You start with building trust, which is what Patrick Lencioni has identified as the foundation, the building block, of building a functional team in his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” We must trust that what we do and say is for the betterment of the person and the organization. Trust is more than caring for someone. You can genuinely care for someone but not trust them.
How many times have you agreed to do something even though deep down inside, you didn’t want to do it, but you did it because you didn’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings? And what about receiving the truth, AKA feedback? Receiving feedback about the work we put into a project or task can be just as hard because we know we worked hard at it; we put our heart and soul into it. And when we don’t hear what we expect to hear, our feelings and our pride get hurt.
What I have learned about feedback is that it is a “gift.” Someone that genuinely cares for me is sharing information with me because they care and want the best for me and the organization. When you think about giving feedback, are you more concerned about helping the person be the best they can be, or are you more worried about what they will think of you? Is the feedback about you or helping the other person? Who do you want to help but are holding back sharing valuable information? Need more convincing? Give yourself 15 minutes to watch this TedTalk on Radical Candor by Kim Scott.
Stay curious, and have a great week!
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