Remember the first time you got caught telling a lie as a kid? There you were with chocolate dripping down your chin with that sweet innocent smile saying "What candy?"
Early on we all learned to separate the big lies from the little fibs. Do you know anyone who tells the truth 100% of the time? If so, I'd love to meet and interview them.
I was just thinking about a time when I was a new teen driver. I was pulled over for going too fast on a local back road. I looked up at the police officer and said, in a rather dramatic tone that was my specialty, "But officer, I'm rushing home because I feel sick and think I'm going to throw up."
He looked at me sympathetically and for a moment I thought I was being close to ticket free. He smiled, shrugged and was ready to take pen in hand when I took another stab at a better lie. I informed him I was on the verge of a "fecal explosion" right there in the car.
That seemed to be the right pitch and he stepped back, waved me on and said to drive carefully.
Anyone believe in karma? I didn't even know how to spell the word back then. All I know is that three days later I had a virus that kept me internally cleaned out up and down.
What did I learn from that?
Be careful with what you say, even little lies can backfire. I learned that it really is easier to tell the truth because you definitely have less to remember.
If truth-telling is a part of your company culture you are in a much better position to handle conflict and complete assignments on time. If truth-telling is new at work, then it will take some practice and I promise it will be of great benefit as time goes on.
Here are key components of truth telling, so please pay attention:
Truth sentences are short and to the point. No more than seven to fifteen words. No run on sentences and no long paragraphs to explain. Here are a few truth sentences so you can see how they sound. "I stayed up late to complete the project and I'm glad it's finally done." "He's not the right fit for our team I'm sad to say." "I was very frustrated by the way you responded to me yesterday."
Watch eye movements. When you are being told the truth, there's a tendency for someone to face you "full Monty" and a willingness to look you directly in the eyes. Avoiding eye contact is a sure give-a-way.
Notice if there's a lot of voting. In other words, if someone tells you that other people agree with him and disagree with you and furthermore they won't say anything because they're intimidated, you know that there's lots of gossip being spread. Gossip changes the truth just like the kid's game "whispering down the lane" which can start out with "tomorrow it will be sunny" and end up with "I hate you and you're really ugly."
Your part in the search for truth is to ask lots of open ended questions. The questions that can only be answered "yes" or "no" leave too much room for those who tell tall tales. They can then get away easily, without much accountability. The short one word answers are loved by liars.
It's best to learn and practice open ended questions of the "what, when, how, where, and why" variety to find the truth that is so often waiting just under the surface to be found. When you hold people accountable for details and facts you can soon find that the stories don't match up.
Interesting that decades ago when President Nixon said over and over he knew nothing about Watergate, a group of deaf people were asked to decide whether he was lying or not. They watched some tapes of Nixon denying involvement. They laughed and said he was absolutely lying (this was before the truth came out). When asked how they knew, they said it was all in the eyes and his unwillingness to face forward when he was talking.
Find a friend, a partner, or get a coach who can listen to you and critique how you ask the right kind of questions and help you become a discerning seeker of the truth. It's the best way to live at work, at home, everywhere.