Why is Telling the Truth So Damn Hard?

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Why is Telling the Truth So Damn Hard?

The Idea: We live in a world of exaggeration, hyperbole, aggrandizement and stretching the truth. In other words, lying is alive and well in our culture. And yet, truth-telling remains the only way of protecting long term partnerships and relationships. After more than three decades of training, coaching and organizational assessments, I am convinced of one thing: “We are not always receiving the truth from others.”

How do you speak the truth even when it is difficult?  It’s shocking how scarce truth can be.  Judith Aquino from Business Insider reports the following statistics on the matter:

  • 31% of people lie on resumes.
  • 60% of people felt they could wiggle out of their lies once discovered and not suffer the consequences.
  • 60% of people lie at least once during a 10-minute conversation.

The problem only grows when fabrication and deception enters our workspace. Silence is a killer. And we are the victim when we fail to prevent the repercussions. Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed by Silence Fails were currently working on projects which they predict will fail. They view it as a slow-motion train wreck. “Fewer than one in ten respondents said that it was politically acceptable to speak openly about what was going wrong.” That’s a losing system.

What about admitting when you are wrong?  It’s baffling how many folks are flourishing in their careers yet struggle to admit when they commit an error.  Consultant and author, Subir Chowdhury, speaks on this topic in a recent article titled, “The Power of Honesty: Why Being Straightforward Matters,”  where a prominent executive has a deathbed realization about his intolerance for dissenters and seeks to right his wrongs. It’s a powerful story, but Chowdhury asks a much more dangerous question: would the executive have had a more prosperous personal and professional life had he not taken credit for his team’s hard work and instead embraced his mistakes and the difficult questions his team levied against him?

The answer is likely “yes,” Chowdhury says.  He says that fear destroys openness and transparency in every culture.   Perfectionism is a bad idea. Are you comfortable speaking the words “I don’t know?”

Putting It To Work

One may read about Chowdhury’s stories of the power of truthfulness and think, “well, that’s easy,” but subtle deception is engrained in much of our branding. There is a trust problem with many brands.  In a Forbes article entitled, “Influencers: Be Cautious When Choosing Your Brand Associations,” by Daniel Newman, he states that consumers trust influencers (defined as bloggers, pundits, and celebrities) at a rate of just eighteen percent…  Comparatively, they trust “Brand Advocates” (defined as satisfied customers) at a rate of ninety-two percent, which is at the same trust level as a friend or family member.

Statistics show that if a person is viewed as authentically loving a brand, then they will be viewed as an advocate.  But if they are viewed as looking to “cash in” by representing a brand, the message is weakened by more than five times.  Advocacy cannot be faked.

The best organizations are courageous. Being courageous means calling out your own falsehoods, and falsehoods within your own team.  This is where your own transformation lies.

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