Have you ever witnessed a well-intentioned somebody being genuinely honest with their opinion to the point that they consider it to be fact?
The easiest person to think of is my Mother.
My Mom thinks I’m a great writer. She is also biased. If I submitted a manuscript to my Mother, and she had the power, I am sure would publish it in a heart beat. However, that probably wouldn’t be the immediate case if I submitted my first manuscript to any other publisher. There are plenty of people who probably think my writing is shit (except my Mom also hates it when I use expletives).
In the real world, your boss may think you are the best, but it doesn’t guarantee a promotion (because maybe there is somebody out there who is better but works at another branch and wants to transfer in and would truly be the better fit. So your boss’s boss picks that person instead).
There is danger in being too honest at times. Particularly if you are at a level of Leadership. Being overly transparent can create false hope. I’ve seen false hope crush the dreams of great people.
We can’t make promises we can’t keep. Our words are often taken as fact. We should treat them as such. Our word is our bond.
About a year ago, I shared my opinion with a team member, on how our team handles a particular process. I didn’t agree with it, but still, it’s the way our team has agreed to handle it, so, I supported it.
This team member, walked out of that conversation, into a team meeting and told everyone that I disagreed with it and we should be doing it another way.
That was my fault.
There is a word for this type of behavior that sometimes gets us in trouble, and causes cracks in the foundation of our trust; over-aligning.
This often sounds like, “I TOTALLY agree with you, but we HAVE to do it this way because so-and-so says so.” It demonstrates the exact opposite of that which we are trying to build; trust.
If I don’t trust my Leader, why would a team member trust that Leader, or even myself?
Also, we can’t forget that people are real. They have feelings. They get hurt. We feebly attempt to over-promise or over-align to prevent that, but we are just perpetuating its inevitability.
So we blur the truth with our opinions. Let’s refer to this as subjective honesty. It’s not the whole picture. It’s a piece of it. Mostly the piece that we would LIKE to occur. You’ve heard the saying, “Perception is reality.” And most of the time, we are operating from only one. Our own. But our narrative is not the only one that matters.
It is possible to be far more objective in our honesty (sure, there will always be a little bias in there). It’s ok to say we can’t promise a particular outcome and should not promise a particular outcome. I am still being honest if I say “I don’t know.” Because I don’t. I can’t read the future and neither can you.
Too often I see people getting into verbal handshakes so they can try to ensure the probability of a particular outcome. Sometimes it’s innocent. Sometimes it’s manipulation.
Even the computer can be beat at chess.
So what do we do if we can’t guarantee a particular outcome?
Don’t muddy the truth with unnecessary words.
Don’t make promises about a situation or decision that is beyond your control. Even if your intentions are good.
Be objective. Let life happen.