“Thirst was made for water, inquiry for truth”
C.S. Lewis / The Great Divorce
We want people to be honest and transparent with us – both in personal and workplace relationships. We trust such people and feel comfortable working with them. Life is far more manageable when we know the truth.
Yet we often meet professionals who exaggerate, omit important facts, and even lie outright. The main reason for this is that, when communicating, people have different motives, and oftentimes the truth is not even a consideration. Let us be honest with ourselves, as we are all prone to this.
Consider the following:
- The clothing salesman insists that the dress you are trying on fits you perfectly. Her only objective is to sell you the dress regardless of how good or bad you look in it.
- When examining your teeth, the dentist criticizes the workmanship of the previous dentist. He wants you to become his client.
- The only pursuit of the lawyer defending his client in court is exonerating him regardless of who is guilty.
- During election campaigns, political candidates criticize everything their opponents propose regardless of how reasonable their ideas are. Their only objective is to win the race and be elected.
- We expect news outlets to be objective and unbiased. This is a key professional ethic of journalism. Yet, many TV stations and other mass media bias their news reports in favor of their favorite political party or politician. Financially driven news outlets sensationalize news in order to increase ratings and revenues. The search for objective truth takes a back seat.
The desire to disclose and promote truth is equally rare in personal and workplace relationships. Consider these:
- An employee blames colleagues and circumstances for his failure. He is attempting to save his reputation.
- A woman hypocritically compliments a friend on her new shoes. Her objective is to make the proud owner of the new shoes feel good.
- In badmouthing a colleague, an employee is trying to damage the reputation of someone he feels threatened by. Or maybe he wants to impress the boss with being a loyal employee.
- When asked to explain a mistake or a misbehavior, we are experts at quickly fabricating fake reasons to hide the truth which may embarrass us.
- When arguing an issue, our primary objective is often to prove ourselves right and boost our egos. Not to find the truth.
Here, too, identifying and propagating the truth is not a consideration.
Society pays heftily for propagating falsehoods in economic, social and personal terms. The ensuing mistrust, hostility and lack of cooperation lead to broken relationships, the election and promotion of unqualified people, bad decisions, demoralized citizens and wasted talent.
None of us wants our doctor to cover up our health problems in order to make us feel good. The truth must come out. The disease must be uncovered and conquered.
Despite short-term gains, in the long run, we all suffer because of this epidemic of falsehood.
Eventually, the recipients of lies detect the hidden agendas and the dubious motives. Excuses, false accusations, exaggerations, intentional omissions and cover ups will be exposed, labeling the fabricator as untrustworthy. His reputation will be ruined, his relationships destroyed, and the resulting mistrust will lead to ineffectiveness, unproductivity and broken dreams.
By always telling the truth, even when inconvenient, we earn a reputation for being reliable and authentic. Our words will then carry far more weight and people will be more than willing to buy both our views and products.
When communicating, our primary intention must be to produce a correct understanding of the truth in the listener’s mind by telling what we really think and how we really feel, regardless of other considerations. Truthfulness is not the utterance of facts, but the production of a correct understanding of the truth in the listener’s mind. This is a liberating experience.
AMAA Armenia Representative