“To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful.”
In AJ Jacobs‘ book The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment, chapter 3 is entitled “I Think You’re Fat” and is all about telling the truth. Jacobs spent an entire month practicing the art of Radical Honesty and basically saying the first thing that came into his mind about anything and anyone.
From a similar page in sociology history, in 1997 Jim Carrey starred in a movie about a lawyer that was stricken with the ailment of forced truthfulness in Liar Liar.
…And Nothing But the Truth
What if you told the truth about everything tomorrow; hell, just for the rest of today? What differences do you think you would see? If you are anything like me, it would terrify you to tell nothing but the truth (if I’m being completely honest).
Let’s focus on the business aspect of things, instead of the telling your wife those jeans actually do make her look fat side of things.
One of These Things is Not Like the Others…
Seth Godin has a great post about the difference between hourly work and linchpin work (you can read it here, it is well-worth your time). In it, he differentiates between those who re replaceable and those who bring something unique to the table. With that thinking, is it better to be one of the “yes men” or the one person who actually stands out and tells the truth about the boss’ idea to bring in new clients?
How many times have you said one of the following:
“She’s the boss, she must know what she’s doing.”
“It’ll only make things worse for me if I disagree.”
“No one else is saying anything, so this must not be open for discussion.”
Radical Honesty teaches that to be completely free, you also have to be free from the filter in your mind that always tries to justify lying or agreeing simply for agreement’s sake.
New ideas are born out of truth and the willingness to walk out on a limb, even if no one will walk with you. Think about it, where would you rather be standing: alone and in the right, or with a bunch of other people under a stupid idea?
Every day as I drive to work, I hear at least one commercial that makes me think to myself, “That was the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, I hope somebody lost their job over that.” I’m sure you’ve made similar statements and people say, “Well you remember it, so they achieved their goal.” Sure I remember it. I remember it being one of the dumbest advertisements I heard that day. What a great way to be remembered. (Think of it like this, I’ll bet the kid from your high school who is remembered for being pants-ed during the pep rally wishes no one remembered him.)
The Only Thing To Fear…
Why are we so hesitant to tell the truth? Gus Tender has an study that lists and explains the fears involved with telling the truth. They are as follows:
- Fear of Retribution
- Fear of Hurting Other’s Feelings
- Fear of Change
- Fear of Being Disliked
- Fear of Losing Support
- Fear of Paying the Price
- Fear of Losing Competitive Advantage
- Fear of Losing Face
All valid fears…but hindrances nonetheless. Do you think Chris Brogan cowers in a corner before he posts his opinion or something he thinks is helpful? I’ll bet Steve Jobs is afraid of hurting other people’s feelings as he changes the landscape of technology every year (it seems). Think of the people that you know who are linchpins and drivers in your field. Do they exhibit these fears, or do they press on through to what they know is right?
Tell the truth today. If you think an idea is a bad one, say that. Say what you think would make your strategy more effective (and say it out loud).
If you can’t think of anything truthful to say, try asking yourself these questions and answering them honestly:
- If I were the only one working on this, is that how I would do it?
- How could we make this strategy work if there were no limitations?
- If I ran this company…
- If I knew there would be no consequences, how would I approach this?
If I’m being honest, I know I will fail today on this front. But it’s something I strive for. I work every day to be a little more honest and open with people because I truly believe it makes me more valuable (more of a linchpin).
Hopefully we can learn a little something from AJ Jacobs and Jim Carrey and be a little more open today.
Blog Code: If you have a good story about someone being honest and it benefiting them, please leave it in the comments. We all love a good story.