You Can’t Handle the Truth!

From a ‘creating positive change and stepping into reality’ perspective, it’s fair to say that sometimes the thing we would-be changers want to hear is not necessarily the thing we need to hear. Just like some of us think we need chocolate. No, we want chocolate.

We need oxygen.

For me, knowing what somebody needs to hear (regarding their situation, challenge or goal) is not nearly as important as knowing (1) whether or not they are ready to hear what I have to tell them (the truth as I see it) and (2) whether or not they are genuinely ready to do something about it; no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable that ‘doing’ might be. In many cases, the practical change process (psychological, emotional, behavioral) is not nearly as fun, fabulous or sexy as the self-help brochures would have us believe. In fact, more often than not, it’s kind of painful and scary.

For a while, at least.

So when somebody tells us something that we might not want to hear about ourselves (habits, outcomes, attitude, behaviours), there’s often an automatic (and understandable) resistance, if not anger, at the message. Or messenger. After all, sometimes it’s easier to get angry, than honest. Or humble. Hearing certain things about ourselves or our situation can be tough but the thing we need to ask is… is it true? In the middle of our issues and fears, it’s in our interest to find a way to turn down the insecurity and ego and find some degree of objectivity.

By the way, when I talk about this kind of feedback I’m not talking about unsolicited criticism from strangers (or even family, for that matter) but rather intelligent, constructive input from people we trust and respect. As a coach (etc.), one of my biggest challenges is to judge (1) when to share something and (2) how much ‘truth’ to present to my audience (be that an audience of one or many) without creating disconnection.

It matters.

The right truth shared at the wrong time will do more harm than good which is why I don’t say as much… as I do. ;)

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Tina May 7, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Hey Craig!
This one hits me right between the eyes! I know I’ve been guilty of telling a certain someone things he doesn’t want to hear (but needs to hear) at the wrong time. But then, with some people, there doesn’t seem to be a right time! So what do I do when his physio tells me to keep reminding him, but he doesn’t want to be reminded??!! Arrrggghh!!
{{HUG}} Tina

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Sulagna - Love in India May 8, 2013 at 1:09 am

Yeah… step #1 is to be open to the truth about ourselves, but as you say, the most important step is step #2 – doing what we know. :)
Great post. :)

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anon fem May 8, 2013 at 1:53 am

I have heard it said that wounds from a friend are better than flattery from an enemy. When we look back in our lives it is the people who we thought were being way harsh at the time were actually trying to help us and could see things in us that we couldn’t see, so often we can surround ourselves with people who affirm us, and have the same personality and hang-up’s as we do and therefore we go around the same merry go round of circumstances and one day look back and think if only I had been more open minded and not been so distracted by things which are not as important in the long term such as the personality clash or how offended or pissed we are feeling. I suppose it is one of the mysteries/challenges of life.

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JacJacJacquie May 8, 2013 at 2:27 am

That was quick!
Sitting here at midnight, I’ve just been doing some “work” (journalling my emotions regarding my marriage, and truly now “getting” that I’ve actually been part to blame for its breakdown).
As tears stream down my face, your email just popped up and cemented my thoughts. Always projecting blame, never being ready to “own” it or listen to the inner child/adult, let alone others who seem to “See” better than me.
Thanks – I’m waiting delivery of your latest book, and I’m really looking forward to it.

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Vin's niece May 8, 2013 at 6:37 am

Sometimes chocolate is needed ;) when the right truth is shared at the wrong time! A very well written article that holds a lot of relevance to me at this time! Thanks for the read!

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Sandy Fishwick May 8, 2013 at 10:00 am

You tell me what I need to hear not what I want to hear which is the way I like it.

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Evan May 8, 2013 at 10:29 am

When giving feedback it can be helpful to stick to the behaviour. Don’t talk about who the person is ‘lazy, hard working, etc’ but what they do – you have made this change and if you quit now you won’t make any more.

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