I was in a meeting yesterday where a friend was describing a work problem she was having with a vendor who’s service wasn’t meeting her expectations. She described in detail what the problem is, what impact it is having and then she went on to explain why it was a challenging issue to tackle with the vendor.
The Truth will Set you Free
Once she described the situation, she asked the group for advice on how to handle the situation. I innocently suggested that perhaps she should call the vendor and describe the situation to him exactly the way she had just described it to the group including why it was difficult to call him. Based on the look I got, you would have thought I had just suggested we rob a bank or commit murder. Apparently, the notion of calling the person who can solve the problem and telling them the truth was out of the question.
I bump into this kind of thinking a lot. For some reason, we’ve convinced ourselves that telling the hard truth in situations that might lead to conflict is not an acceptable path. And it’s costing us a lot in time, energy and emotional drain.
The issue is that we write a bunch of stories in our head about why we can’t have the real conversation that matters because of how the other person might react or what the possible repercussions might be. Take my friend’s situation. The irony was that one of the things she was contemplating was whether it was time to find a new vendor. Consider that for a moment. She was convinced that it was as good of a strategy to go through the pain and time of changing vendors rather than having an uncomfortable conversation with the one that already knows her business.
Unfortunately, I see this a lot. We spend a lot of time and energy avoiding having the conversations that would make all the difference. Telling someone an uncomfortable truth is not easy, but it’s one of the most important things you can do as a leader. Let’s be clear, telling the truth and having hard conversations doesn’t mean that you can’t be empathetic, compassionate or diplomatic. That’s all about how you deliver the truth and of course it’s important to handle the conversation professionally and with dignity, but you still need to speak the truth.
Next time you find yourself in a situation where you are talking to someone else about the problems you are having with another person, stop yourself and go talk to the person with whom you have the problem. Tell them the truth about the problem and how it’s impacting you. You will be surprised by the results.
The truth will set you free.