The Truth can be Tricky

“Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.”
Warren W. Wiersbe


Telling the TruthThe truth can be tricky. It’s like the Captain who wrote in the ship’s log: “First mate was drunk today.”

After sobering up, the mate went to the Captain and pleaded with him to strike out the record. “It was the first time in my life I’ve been drunk,” he pleaded, “and I promise never to do it again.”

“In this log we write only the truth,” stormed the Captain.

The next day it was the mate’s turn to keep the log, and in it he wrote: “Captain was sober today.”

Yes, the truth can be tricky, but all healthy relationships and healthy companies are built on truth. Not little white lies or big fat distortions of the truth. That’s why the 12th and final key of my two-day program, “The Journey to the Extraordinary,” is Follow-Through. People tend to follow through when you’re honest with them.

(P. S. If you’re interested in attending my next off-site “Journey” program, click here or call Aaron at 1-800-621-7881.)

For the moment, however, there are a few things you can do to put more truth in your relationships.

1. Stop pretending.

In my program, “The Partnership Payoff: 7 Keys To Better Relationships and Greater Teamwork,” I teach “The Pretend Principle.” It says, “The greatest danger in any relationship is to pretend not to know what we know.”

It’s dangerous when a couple pretends their relationship is alright even though they know they are drifting apart. It’s dangerous when a company leader pretends everything is okay when the financial reports indicate a dramatic change in strategy is needed.

I believe in positive thinking, but pretending things are okay when they’re not is NOT positive thinking. That’s Emotional Ignorance and Emotional Immaturity. You’ve got to stop pretending if you want to build your relationship or build a business or build a country.

A few days ago I had that thought reinforced by our former Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. As my wife and I sat in the audience and listened to his gloomy outlook on the world and American foreign policy, he made a statement that hit me like a ton of bricks. He said, “Issues don’t improve simply because we don’t talk about them.”

We’ve got to talk to each other … no matter how difficult it might be. We’ve got to stop pretending things will get better if we simply ignore them. And then…

2. Stop thinking that silence is the best policy.

For hundreds of years, we’ve heard the old saying that “Honesty is the best policy.” Seems pretty clear and straightforward to me. But in recent years, there’s been a shift towards another idea … that shutting up and keeping silent is the right way to go.

Some people seem to be rationalizing away the need for plain old-fashioned honesty. They’ll rationalize their silence by saying they don’t want to hurt the other person.

Well I don’t want to hurt people either. But it’s vitally important to tell the truth, even if you think it’s going to hurt the other person. The temporary pain of the truth far outweighs the long and drawn out pain of living a lie.

To make matters worse, when you withhold the truth from another person, you diminish the other person. You disrespect the other person. You’re saying, in effect, that they can’t handle the truth. They’re too weak, small, and frail. And who wants to be treated that way?

The same principle applies to our national relationships. We must never think that silence is the best policy. Just look at the history of EVERY dictatorship in the history of the world. The first thing the dictator does is shut down the free press and shut down the right of people to disagree with him. As President Theodore Roosevelt said so very well, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”


3. Tell the truth.

Even if it’s not comfortable or politically correct. When you tell the truth you make life so much easier for yourself and everyone else. You take away all the second guessing and get right to the heart of the matter.

That’s why my parents … and probably yours as well … taught me to always tell the truth. That way I didn’t have to remember what I told other people.

Seems pretty simple to me. The truth is the truth. But what makes it so difficult is that lies and deceptions can come in a myriad of ways. As 16th-century essayist Michel De Mantaigne noted, “If falsehood, like truth, had but one face, we would be more on equal terms … But the opposite of truth has a hundred thousand faces.”

When I was delivering my “Journey to the Extraordinary” program in Oklahoma, speaking in the room next to me was the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. My class wanted to listen to her, meet her, and take pictures with her. Secretary Albright agreed to all of that.

But my biggest take-away from her presentation was her emphasis on truth and the necessity for it. She admitted that when she was Secretary of State, she often lied or was forced to lie by the President. She called certain world leaders “friends” and “allies” when they were nothing but con artists and thugs. With remorse she said, if we had told the truth about what was happening in the Middle East then, we wouldn’t have the problems we have now.


4. Run your truth through three questions.

While I am advocating for truth, there is no need for brutality, attacks, and put downs. And chances are those strategies wouldn’t work anyway. The recipient would either tune you out or get defensive.

To increase the chances of communicating your truth in a way that the other person will hear you out, ask yourself three questions first.

1) Is it true? Are your comments based on the facts or gossip and hearsay? Do you truly know what you are talking about?

2) Is it necessary? Sometimes people engage in behaviors that are nonproductive or even destructive. They need to be told those things. Other times their behavior may be a one-time occurrence or a minor annoyance you can overlook. So ask yourself how important it is for you to tell the other person the truth.

3) Is it kind? You may be justifiably angry at someone and his/her behavior. But you can still be kind and respectful in the way you tell your truth.

When you follow all four tips above, your payoff is better relationships on and off the job. 


Ask yourself the three questions before you give someone your feedback and truth. What will come out of your mouth will be more easily accepted by the other person’s head and heart.