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November 11, 2020

Tell the Truth

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On the heels of election season, I have the thought, what would it be like if we were all followed around by fact checkers, and at the end of every day they published a report for everyone in our world to see? As someone dedicated to becoming a more conscious leader, such an experience would be a great gift and probably pretty scary. Pause for a moment and ask yourself what your report for the past 24-hours would look like.

Sometimes leaders will ask me for a quick on-ramp to conscious leadership or what is something practical they can do to turbo charge their experience. Here’s what I say: tell the truth. Telling the truth will change your life in many ways. You’ll have more energy and aliveness, be more potent as a leader, gain new relationships, and probably loose some that weren’t really serving you.

But first, let’s explore what I mean by telling the truth. Notice that the “t” in truth is a small “t,” not a capital “T.” Capital T Truth refers to axiomatic Truth. Truth that is true for everyone, everywhere, always. We could certainly debate whether there is such truth and whether or not you or any of us can be certain that we know it. That’s a conversation for another time.

The truth I’m pointing to is small “t” truth. Your truth. What is true for you in this now moment. My truth is that most of us don’t tell our truth as often as we think we do. Rather we find ourselves shading the truth, telling half-truths, spinning, massaging, exaggerating, managing the truth. At some point in our early lives we learn that this is the normal way to live, to get along, to fit in and not ruffle feathers. We become socialized and part of being socialized is to not tell the truth.

We likely do this for two simple reasons. First we want to get what we want, and second, we want to avoid what we don’t want. So natural, so human. 

When I watch our children ask their kids, “How many cookies have you had?”, the kids simply wanting more cookies respond with whatever answer they believe will get them what they want. As adults we want love, affection, approval, safety and material stuff. So we, like our children, say what we have to say to get what it is that we want.

So too, when children are asked, “Who hit whom first?”, the children—who are smart and instinctually committed to avoid pain and displeasure—say what they have to say to avoid experiencing what they don’t want to experience, namely, getting in trouble. So do we. When asked, “honey, how does my hair look?”, like the kids we know that to say our truth is to risk getting what we don’t want, namely conflict, so we don’t tell the truth. 

From an early age, we learn to withhold and manipulate. I know that manipulate is a strong word. but isn’t that what we’re doing? We’re manipulating others, attempting to control them by withholding so we can experience pleasure and avoid pain. Thus we lie. 

I encourage each of us to shine the spotlight of awareness on our lives and tell ourselves the truth about how we don’t tell each other the truth. 

When we see this with clarity, it becomes obvious why many of the great traditions have said that the path to wholeness is paved with candor. In order to be a truth teller we have to learn to face into our fear. Telling the truth is almost always scary, risky. People might not like what you say. And if what you say is a reflection of what you think, want, feel, or believe they might not like you, at least in that moment. 

Before we go any further a disclaimer is needed:

Telling your truth is not a license to be a jerk.

 

Some people use authenticity as an excuse to be reckless with their words and vomit their projections onto others. This is the reason that becoming masterful with candor is a practice that takes time to develop. Put simply, telling the truth skillfully has two components: The first is tell your truth, all your truth. The second is tell it lovingly.

 

What does it mean to tell your truth lovingly?

 

  1. Hold your truth lightly. What this means is that your truth is NOT True. You’re not right. Your judgments aren’t accurate about other people, circumstances and situations. In truth, your truth is simply a projection of your consciousness onto the world. If you tell your partner that you don’t like their new haircut, you haven’t revealed anything about the haircut, let alone your partner. What you have revealed is YOURSELF. Your judgments, feelings, wants, and beliefs are all about YOU. Truth telling is an act of vulnerability because it’s about being revealed, known. Once you understand this, you’ll naturally hold your truth very lightly.

  2. Reveal yourself, tell your truth, in the most loving way possible. The key is to tell all your truth AND tell it in a way that is respectful and kind. For example, regarding the haircut you might say, “If you’re asking me for my opinion about your haircut I’m willing to give it to you. I realize it‘s only my opinion and I’m not correct. My thought is that the cut is too short and isn’t a flattering look on you. I liked it better last time when you left the back a bit longer.” By the way, speaking kindly doesn’t mean to always say something positive. Some of us have been taught to say the “bad” stuff between two “good” things (sometimes called a shit sandwich). This is not what speaking the truth in love is about. That is simply another form of manipulation.

  3. Stay with the other person while they have their experience. If they have feelings or thoughts, judgments or reactions in the presence of you revealing yourself, stay open and listen to them, witness their experience. This is about becoming a person that invites other people to tell their truth, to reveal themselves. Being a truth teller is not about dropping bombs and running away. 

With this understanding of truth telling, are you willing to be a truth teller?

If you are, you can begin with these action steps:

  1. Stop exaggerating, either over- or under-representing your reality. If you had three drinks, say three drinks, not two or a couple. If you made seven calls to prospects, say seven and not 10. If you were a national champion, don’t say you were “OK.”

  2. Stop using throwaway words like fine, OK, comfortable, uncomfortable, interesting. These words are almost always used to hide our truth, e.g. “That’s an interesting viewpoint,” most often means “I disagree with that and see it differently.” When asked, “How are you?” don’t say “fine” or “OK” to avoid saying sad, angry, depressed, bored, blissful, etc.

  3. Use do-overs. Do-overs are great for people toddling their way to truth telling. A do-over is simply going to the person you hedged your truth with and saying, “Hey, I realized that I didn’t tell you all of my truth when you asked me about the marketing materials. I’d like a do-over so I can be more fully revealed to you.” 

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