How many times have you heard (or maybe said) “the truth hurts”? That phrase seems to be a catch all that claims, “I can say anything I want, anyway that I want, without care or thought as long as it is the truth.” I disagree completely.
Sometimes we all need and even want to be told a painful or embarrassing truth. “There is spinach in your teeth.” “The promotion you wanted went to someone else.” “You are not going to start this week.” How that information is delivered can make the difference between it being very painful or just a little sting. Some of that difference lies in the intent, some in the delivery and some in the message itself. To keep hurt to a minimum consider the following:
Just because something is true does not mean it needs to be said. “That baby is ugly.” That might be true. Some babies look a little squished for a few days after they are born. But there is absolutely no excuse for actually saying something like that. Consider the “truth” you want to tell, does it really need to be said?
What is there to gain from this truth? If the only benefit to a truth being spoken is to make the speaker feel better, it shouldn’t be said. Hurting someone else for your benefit is just plain mean and uncalled for. In describing a friend I once said, “She is a bleach blonde.” It was true. But it was also very hurtful and unnecessary. I should not have said it.
Are you the right person to tell this truth? Even if your intent is not malicious and someone could benefit from hearing the truth, you might not be the right person to say it.
You’ve determined the truth needs to be said, the hearer will benefit from hearing it and you are the right person to tell them. Now what?
No one wants to be told a painful truth in front of other people. Take the person aside and speak to them in private. Being able to react to the discomfort of the truth without the embarrassment of being observed by others will go a long way to limiting the hurt.
Provide an intro. Never just blurt a hurtful truth out. Start by saying something like: “I have something I need to share with you and I’m uncomfortable about it.” Then take a breath. It will give the hearer that split second to prepare her(him)self.
Know what you want to say and get to the point. If you are going to tell someone a painful truth, get to it already. Don’t beat around the bush or change your mind. It is like taking off a bandage, quick is better.
Let the person express their hurt. If you are a big enough person to tell someone a painful truth be big enough to stay in the conversation and let them work through their reaction.
Help them problem solve. Sometimes it is appropriate to help someone develop ideas for solutions or fixes to the ‘truth’ you just shared. If you can be helpful, do so.
Keep the discussion to yourself. A painful truth someone needed to hear should never be used as fodder for the amusement of others. If you can’t keep the conversation to yourself don’t have it.
Tell us about a truth that hurt. Did it need to be said or would it have been better unsaid? Share your experience with “the truth hurts”.
Have trouble saying no? Read last week’s topic – Saying No With Grace
Come back next week when we discuss How to let the team know you had to let a team member go.