Can you handle the truth??

As I do my best to raise kids, keep a marriage healthy and start a new business I am learning a lot about the truth. Whether it is speaking the truth, hearing the truth or dealing with the truth.  I have come to the conclusion the truth is a lot like the sun.  It’s healthy in moderation.   But when it comes on too strong or for too long, it starts to hurt. 

Yes, the truth can sting and leave you with lasting scars, just like the sun.  But if you are prepared for it, with sunscreen or a thick skin, it is ultimately good for you.  Like Vitamin D nourishes the body, the truth can help you grow into a better or stronger person or business.  Timing is also key.  The sun isn’t as dangerous in the early morning or late afternoon hours. When you are dealing with the truth, some times are better than others to both give and receive.   

I am one of those people who is cursed with an automatic truth trigger.   It’s hard for me to hold back what I am thinking, even if it’s not the right time or the right place.  But as I deliver the truth, I also expect it in return.  But that is not reality.   We have all been programmed to consider others thoughts and feelings, which in the big picture is good.  It is not always appropriate or a good idea to tell the truth.   For instance, after your child’s choir or band concert, you are not about to tell them, it was really boring and it’s the last thing you wanted to do with your evening.  The movie, “The Invention of Lying” took the truth concept to the extreme.  It made us imagine what life would be like if we spoke our mind every single second of the day.

As I start a new business, we are meeting with lots of interesting and intelligent people trying to get opinions about our concepts and strategies.  We’ve heard things like “brilliant, you’ve got a winner here, love it”.  We appreciate the positivity, but even more valuable than the supportive comments are the tough questions like “How do you plan to make this fly? How do you know it’s going to sell?”

The truth comes easy when it’s a compliment.  Who doesn’t love to tell someone, “great haircut, nice outfit, you nailed it in that meeting”.  But what if the haircut is ugly? The outfit looks like it came from Goodwill? Or they totally missed the boat with a presentation? Then what? Then you ask yourself. Is it better to say nothing at all? In some cases, yes.  If they don’t ask, and it really doesn’t impact your life, I would say smile and move on.  It would only create hard feelings.   But what if the person wearing the eyesore of an outfit works for you in a retail store selling clothes?   Then all of a sudden, you do need to say something.   And I can tell you from experience, it is not easy make a judgement on someone’s personal taste.  You have to find a way to deliver the information with a positive spin.  Love your outfit, just not for work. 

That’s why so many people don’t like managing employees.  If you have great employees, it’s easy . But who has all great employees? There are always going to be some tough ones.   And then you are in the position to tell them what you see as the truth about their performance.

Bottom line is, people have a hard time telling people what they don’t want to hear,  so we’re missing out on the feedback we need the most.  We live in a society that teaches kids early on that everyone is a winner.  We’re not doing our children any favors by trying to protect them from the truth.  We owe it to our children to tell them the truth, even when it hurts.   It’s one of the best things about competitive sports.  If your kid doesn’t make the team,  they need to overcome and learn from disappointment.  The ability to rebound or one of my favorite words
“resiliency” makes us all stronger.  If everything is always rosy, we’re setting ourselves up for major falls later.  

But the truth can be a tricky thing . Your truth may not be someone else’s truth.  They may see it in a totally different way.  So when you lay your cards on the table, you need to find a way to do it gently.  You have to frame it in a way that inspires instead of discourages.    I believe it’s an art that I am still trying to fine tune.

How do you handle the truth?