In my work, it’s common that we eventually get to values, especially the ones we hold about truth and honesty. We have a mixed relationship with truth and honesty. And many of us have found ourselves flailing in the aftermath of damage when we drop a “truth bomb” on someone. It’s messy, not effective.
I’m going out on a limb here, but I am guessing you have either lobbed or received a “truth bomb” in your life. For many people, the bomb element comes from the discomfort we have around difficult conversations. When our feelings are charged up with hurt, anger, frustration, there is real ease in lighting a fuse on any truth we feel pressed to share.
Fundamentally our truth is our side of an experience. And, most of us get focused on how the experience is impacting us. So, when we share the “truth” from our perspective, we are typically pointing our finger outward. And often, we lose track of how our words might impact someone else, even when we hurt them. We say things like, “The truth hurts,” so we can feel better about the truth bomb we just delivered.
What if the Truth Didn’t Have to Hurt?
I don’t think that the truth has to be delivered in a hurtful way. The problem with lobbing a “Truth Bomb” is not the truth part, but the bomb part of the delivery. I can’t speak for you, but when people have dropped truth bombs on me, I stop listening to them. Here are 2 things that are typically going on in a truth bomb.
- We have gotten our emotions powerfully activated and feel the pressure to release them.
- And, two, we think it’s our place to educate someone. Maybe we believe we are helping them.
Both of these reasons are self-serving. One, because adulting means that you learn to rub your tummy and repeat, “I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok” until you have your emotions under control. And two, because your job isn’t necessarily about educating people to your negative emotions. I have had moments when I felt the need to share my perspective and told a hard truth to someone and frankly, it has rarely gone well if I bomb them.
For many years I taught anger management for the Air Force. It was brilliant for me, since I am a red-headed, Irish, Leo, and came from a family who taught me how to be angry. Here are some of the comments I have either said myself or heard others say.
- I am not going to sugar coat the truth!
- I’m a blunt person, just deal with it!
- Sorry if the truth hurts, but it’s the truth and that’s not my fault!
- I am not responsible if you don’t like the truth!
Learning from Truth Bombs
Here’s my question, “Were you effective and did you get the outcome that you wanted with your method of truth-telling?” Because, where I have seen this go very badly is when we tell our truth in a harsh, unkind manner, and we blow the other person out of the water. They tend to control-alt-delete us.
We can devastate relationships with truth bombs. Along the way, we also give others ammo to use on us a later time in future conversations. In a nutshell, hard truths are not ours to give to others. When we do, our truth becomes a weapon. My guess is that probably wasn’t the intent behind sharing your truth, but it might be the impact depending on your delivery method. And, ask yourself, do I want to be effective or right?
When I was young someone told me, “If what you do with the truth is blow someone up, your point, your insight, your message, the value of the very truth your are attempting to share would be lost.”
Truth-telling Done Well
What I have learned is that if I want my words to be useful, I need to concentrate on a few elements. And, in my article 5 Tips to Keep Your Cool in Any Situation, I give you more ideas to keep your cool.
The best way to help me share my truth was to develop the conversation around the ideas of True, Kind, and Necessary. These three values were the legs that stabilized the truth. These were the values that have helped me communicate my truth, in a manner others could hear. These are the three foundations for sharing any opinions, personal perspectives, or truths with another person.
The True, Kind, Necessary (TKN) concept fits very neatly with “Socrates’ Triple Filter Test,” True, Good, Useful. And, when I have some problematic conversation to tackle, this tool becomes my gage for effectiveness. You can read more fully about the elements of TKN in the article Powerful Tools to Navigate Difficult Conversations.
When I have a truth I need to share, my goal is to be heard and understood by the other person. Hopefully, I also want to hear and understand the other person. TKN, slows me down. I have to consciously consider what I am going to say and for what purpose. It asks me to be curious. What was happening in the alternative perspective, you know, that other person’s experience.
Having a Positive Impact in a Difficult Conversation
I see TKN as the legs of a stool; without all three, you lose stability. TKN asks you to slow down, think about your reactions and responses, develop insights into what you are feeling and what you are trying to say, so you can say it clearly and concisely. With the most powerful impact and the least resistance.
At the end of the day, if the conversation is important enough for you to have it, isn’t it important to do well? If your experience of the truth are so compelling, that you have to share it, then you actually owe it to your conversation to do it well. Like most bombs, truth bombs are best when unexploded.
I would LOVE to hear from YOU!
- What is something you’ve done to navigate a truth bomb?
- How do you prefer people share their “truth” with you?