Should you ask someone if they would prefer being told a pleasant lie rather than an unpleasant truth, what would their answer be? In theory, in such a scenario, they would want the truth and nothing but the truth, even if it were disturbing. In practice, and in everyday situations, this question never arises, but each of us presumes a response from the other. And therein lies the problem: we presume!
We assume that we know the interests of others better than them and presume also of the reliability of our understanding in relation to what interests them or not. We assume that the other is not ready, or that they will act negatively, or that they would rather not be bothered with any of it. These assumptions are in some cases emphatic, but they are in many cases illusory. They are only pretexts to escape the responsibility of stating things as they are for us, by clarifying our intentions. We are mistaken in trying to find the answer in the perceptions of others when the answer is at home, within ourselves. Above all, we must clarify our expectations in all honesty.
Speaking frankly will rally allies over time. This said, there is a short term risk that being frank might shock or alienated some of your allies. If these people do not like the veracity of your words, they may distance themselves from you. Conversely, if you’re not frank in your communication, you will have term allies now but only for the short term.
Being frank is a quality and lying is a ‘moral’ lapse. Nobody would deny this. However, the verdict is much more complex to reach if we include not just what we say but also what we keep to ourselves or delay sharing. In practice, in both professional and personal settings, interests intertwine and wishes and wants merge easily. Anything we say can at any time be held against us, so we stick to what troubles our comfort zone the least. It’s easier to not say everything than saying everything, isn’t it?
The answer will require intense situational and emotional intelligence. Timing is key, sharing your thoughts when the situation is most conducive to their acceptance. The argument is simple and straightforward: Delaying sharing is not lying, on the contrary, it provides enough time for proper consideration of an issue to ensure we’ve looked at it from all angles.
By Farid Yandouz