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We can handle the truth!

Worry about negative consequences unjustifiable





We can handle truth and clarity much better than most of us generally think of: To assume that 1. Honest communication and the avoidance of socalled bad news are less socially accepted and 2. lead under all circumstances to negative consequences, is false. On the contrary: according to three experiments that have been run in the course of a joint study by the Chicago Booth and the Pittburgh`s Tepper School of Business social relations stay at least the same and sometimes even become stronger. Medium term people even grab more meaning in life after having been confronted with truthful communication instead of whitewashed facts.

The two US-scientists admit, though, that the exact functionality of the practice of radical candor of honesty has to be explored more in detail. Still, they derive from their results and send as a message to the world of management: a) executives need not be anxious before delivering painful truths and b) particularly in conflict resolution honest communication can avoid awkward negative spirals and contribute significantly to deescalation.

You can handle the truth. Mispredicting the consequences of honest communication. Levine/Cohen. In: 2018. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(9), 1400-1429.


From the practice:

Frankly speaking: the whitewashed phrases, the shifty flowers of speech and all those courtesy lies suck – they do not heighten and they do not elucidate – neither professionally nor privately.

100% ok with that! The more truthful, honest or direct we want to communicate, though, the better prepared, the more sensitive we should be. Wording and timing counts in my opinion most.

Truth and appreciation are not mutually exclusive! To communicate truthfully might work more often than we think. I.e. „Sorry, may I be honest to you?“ or „I want and I have to be honest with you“ are best practise preambles which announce masterfully that you will now speak clearly your mind. Your interlocutors or your audience are emotionally prepared then and will receive the truth much better.

You might provide honest feedback to employees calm and at eye level without unleashing frustrations. You might address the truth about the serious situation of the enterprise or the party with firm voice straightforwardly without provoking panic or resolution phenomena.

In case of doubt please train prior to delivery when you are going to do some frank talking today. It is always a balancing act – but it does pay off!


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