Contrary to the current popular belief that political correctness is the way to acceptance, I’d like to suggest that telling the truth is a powerful way to establish and fortify trust.
When I say this, I am frequently asked, "Whose truth?"
I used to be somewhat taken aback by this question because truth seemed an obvious thing to me. Truth is truth, isn’t it? Well, no. It’s not that simple. We live now in a world in which facts are shaped to serve specific purposes and powerful coalitions form around particular versions of truth.
Information comes at us from so many sources that it’s hard to keep track of what’s real and what’s invented. The Internet brings us many tall tales that we are at a loss to verify or denounce. Opinions vary depending on an incredible array of factors. At the same time, diversity is encouraged and celebrated. Given this, there’s no real right, no real wrong, and a definitive position is cast in harshly negative terms.
What the result of all this? Confusion. Wariness. Distrust. Fatigue. Apathy.
These are not the building blocks of success! Nor are they the keys to a successful future for anyone.
So, whose truth should you tell? Your own.
This is a scary proposition for many, maybe most, people today. The notion of being approved, liked and welcomed into some circle of importance creates powerful pressure to take the temperature of a group you want to be part of before committing to any position.
Even in friendships, I hear people tell fibs to maintain relationships. But friends on both sides of a fib feel something in their gut that makes them suspicious of each other. They want to trust, and they really like their friend, but something doesn’t feel right, solid or true.
Telling the truth has become an art form. Maybe it always has been, I don’t know. But the way a person tells the truth has an awful lot to do with the way it is accepted.
Generally speaking, over-the-top energy (high drama) limits the acceptability of a truth. Passion, in other words, has its place.
Heresy, you say! Yes, I have been criticized for downplaying passion because "everyone" knows that passion is the source of energy and success. Consider this: Passion has many faces and temperatures. It can be cool and precise as well as hot and animated.
And this leads to another argument over truth. If you feel hot and animated and the situation you’re involved with calls for coolness and precision, aren’t you lying if you acquiesce to the occasion? Aren’t you lying by acting cool when you feel hot?
Here’s where the power of telling the truth really shines. When you know what’s what inside yourself, it doesn’t matter whether you tell it hot, cool or somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter how the person hearing it reacts to it or feels about it. Your truth is your truth. Others have their truths, which you are happy to hear because you don’t feel the need to agree or disagree, refute or support.
In this way, telling the truth becomes a powerful means of establishing trust because you become trustworthy. You know what is true for you and you accept the fact that others may have a different truth. You don’t need to change your truth to be more acceptable to others and you don’t require them to adopt your truth in order to stay in relationship with you. You share different perspectives in a spirit of respect and curiosity.
What an amazing difference this could make in virtually every aspect of our lives today!
Of course the first step is in figuring out what your truth is. Start with something small and silly. What food do you want to eat this weekend? Tell the truth. If you want pizza, say so. If you want steak, say so. If you want seafood or salad, Twinkies or HoHos, vegan or sushi, say so. Get in touch with what’s true for you and say it out loud. You may be surprised at how happy others are to oblige.
When it comes to bigger issues, take time to figure out what you really think. When you speak frankly while respecting the fact that others may differ, you sow the seeds of a powerful trust relationship. Don’t be surprised when people not only accept you, but begin to seek you out. Truth fosters trust.
Susan Marshall is a consultant and founder of Executive Advisor LLC in Oconomowoc. She also is the author of "How to Grow a Backbone." For additional information, visit www.executiveadvisorllc.com.