I value honesty and integrity. You do too! Yet there are times when you shouldn’t “tell the truth”.
“Really?” you may ask.
Yes, really! Whether you’re an executive, coach, consultant or other leader, don’t get caught in the false belief that “speaking your truth” is your first response in every situation. It isn’t. Sometimes not speaking immediately builds integrity rather than destroying it.
Here are some times to avoid “the truth” and feel really great about yourself.
When you are angry… Your anger is a clear sign that you need to do something, but blaring out what you think isn’t it. Rather, go on an exploratory mission. First, sit with the angry feelings. What are they about? Make a list. Check what about the current situation feels familiar – in other words, when have these feelings come up this strongly in the past. Circumstances? Who is involved. Ask yourself: Does this situation bring up the old one? When you are clear about what is really at stake, you can have a more meaningful conversation in which you explore the other person’s perspective, share your own without rancor and integrate what you hear.
When you feel wounded… You might feel slighted, “thrown under the bus” or worse. Don’t share “your truth” prematurely. Separate your ideas about what the other person intended from your experience. Again, ask yourself what about this experience feels familiar? Get really curious. Is that old hurt impacting how you receive the current situation? Could the person have meant something other than what you judge to be his intention? When you can list several other interpretations for events than your original “take”, you’re ready to have a conversation.
Often, “being honest” is just vomitting undigested feelings, sensations and ideas all over another human being. It gets ugly and smelly pretty fast and is hard to clean up. Don’t confuse “telling the truth” with revenge acting out your hurt, or attempting to punish the other with words.
You don’t need to hold back your feelings or thoughts, just save that volcanic eruption for after you’ve done your exploration.
Some questions to ask yourself:
1) What is this REALLY about? Am I triggered (reacting to events from the distant past that this situation has a whiff of)?
2) Is my response appropriate to the circumstances? (You know the scenario of a difficult week at work, a traffic accident on the commute home, locking your keys in the car and then blowing up at your partner when he mentions doing the dishes.)
3) What would I like to have happen as a result of the conversation? (Get really clear about the outcome you want. Is it to punish? Is it to clarify? Is it to share/ Is it to find a way forward?)
If you do your work first, you’ll be able to tell the truth with integrity.
Annette is a former high school principal, a certified Integral Coach, an Accelerated Learning specialist and curriculum developer. She is an NLP trained executive coach and co-author of The Game of Truth: A Humorous Guide to Self-Discovery.Annette has taught Power Reading, Memory and Creativity courses around the globe. Her coaching and teaching has taken her to South Africa, Greece, Singapore and Moscow and she has presented workshops at Stanford, USC, Wellesley, Amherst, George Mason University and University of Arizona. Annette has facilitated Ropes Courses and led executive trainings at Anheiser Busch and Nikon. She counts among her clients leaders at NASA, Genentech, Twitter, Clorox, Intel, Cisco and SpaWars.
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