“You might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment!” was the signature phrase of the scheming politician Francis Urquhart, played by Ian Richardson in the 1990 television thriller House of Cards. It’s the great coaching get-out, but what if you did comment and were sparing with the truth?
“Does my bum look big in this?” What can you say? If you don’t say ‘no’ you are in trouble. My father lost a life long friend by responding honestly to the question “What do you think of these paintings I have made?”.
White lies, being economical with the truth a.k.a. lies by omission : Do they have a place in the coaching world? Do they have a place in your everyday world?
it’s ‘the way you tell them’
Ultimately, it’s ‘the way you tell them’ which makes the difference between retaining and losing a client or a friend. How honest an answer will you give, will depend on
- Who you are;
- Who they are;
- The nature of your relationship.
But white lies and omissions are only for the lazy.
Sugar coated diplomacy
For those who are familiar with Behavioural Preference Profiling, which is about communication, the blunt logic of the ‘Reds’ and ‘Blues’ can be an affront when talking to the more emotional ‘greens’ and ‘yellows’ who prefer the truth sugar coated with opinion and diplomacy.
In the world of politics telling blatant lies seems to be the way forward, and of course the history of the winners, as taught in schools, and portrayed by the tabloids, seems not to matter either.
My father used to say ‘Give me the facts’ – and was not interested in opinions. Even if they confirmed his own. He read a left wing broadsheet so there was some hope, but never got the balance, and believed what he read was ‘the truth’ because it was ‘in print’.
In the office, it is well recognised that having the Psychological Safety to be able to speak up and speak out leads to better results but in most organisations cannot be done. To be well at work you need also to be able to both tell the truth and receive the truth. But you must remember
- Your truth, is probably your opinion often based on little or biased knowledge of the facts;
- Their truth, is probably their opinion often based on little or biased knowledge of the facts.
Learning to debate, without falling out, is a life skill, as is being able to recognise that others may be just as passionate as you about their incorrect views. Learn to live with it. I recently asked a group to debate with me issues I was currently having about recent politics. It helped me enormously. Being able to discuss without fear of retribution is crucial to a healthy life. We can facilitate groups or just coach you honestly to help you resolve your issues. Be brave. – white lies do matter.
Written by David Rigby, Smart Coaching & Training Ltd.