Can you handle the truth?
The truth will set you free, so the saying goes.But will it? And whose truth is it, anyway?
In our latest podcast, the noodle team is looking at the role of truth in interviews, business restructures and briefing conversations. How your truth can change, depending on your mood and how people with differing perspectives can perceive the truth in different ways.
The truth will set you free
Think about when you meet somebody for the first time at the office (or indeed, out of the office, although we’re primarily considering truth in the workplace here). You introduce yourself, but what are you holding back? What are they holding back? How much are you prepared to share with each other? You are each aware of your own perspective, but neither of you knows very much about what the other has experienced. You each have your own truth. And this may be coloured by whether you are having a good or a bad day, as well as what your expectations may be of this person you are meeting for the first time.
Is truth a fixed absolute?
We are trained to believe that truth is a fixed absolute. But is it really that simple? We all like to think of ourselves as honest, trustworthy and authentic. But what happens when what we believe to be true turns out to be different to the truth experienced by someone else who considers themselves equally honest and authentic? Is it possible for one truth to mean different things to different people? Or even for opposing truths to co-exist?
Consider an interview situation. When you interview for a new job, you want to put your best foot forward, and present as the best version of yourself. And the person(s) conducting the interview, will also want to show the organisation they are representing in its best possible light. But in doing so, are either of you really being completely honest? After all, nobody can be the best version of themselves all of the time, and no organisation is ever as wonderful and sparkly as it would like to present itself.
Mind the gap
We call it ‘Mind the Gap’ – this gap between the truth presented by both sides in the interview, and the reality. For the person new in the job, it might not be all it was cracked up to be, and for the organisation, their new employee may well turn out to be not quite as perfect as they were hoping. This is the reality of the workplace. The real truth.
But does anyone ever tell the whole truth? And, even if they do, are they listened to and is it recognised as such? Does it sometimes take many people to point out the same truth before it is accepted as fact? What if somebody at a low level in an organisation points out that company money is being wasted on an unviable project? Maybe, at first, they’ll be ignored. But as the problem becomes more widely recognised within the organisation, eventually the board members will make the decision to scrap a wasteful project. And one person’s truth, initially dismissed by everyone else, becomes acknowledged and accepted by all. Which begs the question – does truth have to be widely recognised in order to be true? Or was it the truth all along, but just not recognised as such? Is there a kind of wilful blindness at play, which prevents people from seeing what is going on in front of them, just because it is unpalatable? The old ‘fingers in the ear, “I’m not listening, la-la-la”’?
When to share (or not) an unpalatable truth?
But sometimes, unpalatable truths are shared, which we’d rather not know. Not all truths are pleasant, after all. And this can lead to awkward situations. What if someone shares a simple workplace confidence with you (they’re actively looking for a new job, or they don’t like their boss, etc)? Then someone else asks you a direct question which puts you in a difficult position. What should you do? Should you keep the confidence? Lie? Deflect? What does this say about your honesty, integrity and authenticity? And what if the boot is on the other foot – what if you are in a management position and you know about upcoming restructuring and redundancies, but you’ve been instructed not to say anything? What if rumours are already circulating and someone asks you a straight question. Where is the truth in all of this?
Shades of truth
So whilst we all like to consider ourselves honest, trustworthy and truthful, maybe this is only possible in a perfect world. Maybe in the real world, and particularly in the workplace, there are shades of truth. Layers. And honesty can have more than one face.
Imagine five saucepans hanging on a kitchen wall. One above the other. You want to reach for the middle one. But is it two down from the top, or two up from the bottom? Are these two different truths, or just two different ways of looking at the same truth? Two opposing perspectives facing the same reality?
Join the conversation…
If you are interested in considering these questions around truth a little further, you may want to investigate some of our noodles, particularly:
Energy Investment Model
Why not join the conversation and share some of your stories about your experiences with truth in the workplace at www.noodle.space
A lot of important learning tends to happen by accident and this podcast series shares with you the lessons we wish we'd known sooner. Kate and Max explore the good, the bad and the ugly experiences they've had as people managers and consultants as they noodle through what worked and why. This podcast helps you to be the best version of yourself when interacting with individuals and teams, giving you ideas to boost your confidence, have more impact and be more influential.
We always have plenty to say on Instagram too, at noodle_space where you can join us, learn more or listen to the podcast.
A great book we can recommend, is Wilful Blindness, by Margaret Heffernan which explains why addressing the truth can be surprisingly complex even for the most trustworthy, integrity-filled people.