The truth is the ultimate expression of intimacy. That may be one reason we seem to get so little of the un-varnished variety. Why is it so hard to tell someone new that you love them? Someone not so new that you don’t? Why is it so hard to tell someone, “Things are worse than we thought,” or “I don’t have the money”? The truth is hard because it is so close to us. Think of all the time you spend figuring out how to tell someone something, and you begin to see what I mean. Don’t get me wrong—there is a place for tact and empathy. Therapists and pastoral counselors are taught how to cushion the blow: “I have some tough news to tell you.” (Pause). “It’s about your father/brother/wife/etc.” (Pause.) “There has been an accident.” (Pause.) You get the idea. There is a process for telling the truth, and the people who are taught this are in the business of intimacy. We trust our priests and therapists.
But, in the business of business, we start with the “spin” that cushions the truth itself, not the impact of the truth. We don’t usually tell lies, but the more cushioned the truth becomes, the less impact it has, the less intimacy it creates, and ultimately the less others believe it. And the less others believe, the less leaders have influence.
Interestingly, truth and intimacy reinforce each other. The more we tell the truth, the more comfortable we and others become with intimacy. The more intimate we are with someone, the more willing we are to tell and hear the truth…and the cycle continues. Of course, the opposite is also true: lies destroy intimacy.
Truth and intimacy are close to the bone. They both live under our ego defenses. Both make us vulnerable and most of us don’t like feeling vulnerable. But, comfort with vulnerability is where our real power is. Folks with nothing to hide make others comfortable. Folks who make themselves big targets on purpose don’t seem to need to defend themselves. There is power in being comfortably open and accessible to whatever gets thrown at us.
So, business communications need to start with the truth. Learn to tell the truth—with empathy and sensitivity to others—and you begin to expose yourself. Get comfortable exposing yourself (figuratively, please), and the perception of your power grows.
The more we own the truth in ourselves, the more we expose others to the power of our own truth, and the more our authentic power comes through. The more authentic power we have, not position or hierarchical power, the more influence we have. People follow real power—and real power comes from the truth.