When you start telling the truth within a business, a family, in a romantic relationship or within any community, you may find that others resist it. I have seen dedicated executives fired for questioning the party line in companies that are headed for financial disaster. I have seen family members become angry at, poke fun at and ostracize the “truth teller.” I have seen mothers and fathers cease all communication with their children when those children stop settling for disabling family fictions and finally face the real, painful, and ultimately freeing facts of their life stories. I have seen husbands file for divorce rather than embrace the opportunity to enrich their marriages when their wives insist on honest communication (and vice versa).
In one case, a very large company fired my client, who was the CEO, insisting that his concerns weren’t merited. They ended up hiring him back to make the changes he had suggested, but only after their stock price plummeted by 80 percent over 18 months.
However, I have also seen businesses turned around after heeding the warnings of one executive who identified a fault line in the business strategy. I have seen friendships deepen dramatically. I have seen family members begin to relate to one another in stronger, more genuine ways. I have seen marriages revitalized.
Keep this at the front of your mind: whether you are embraced or isolated for telling the truth, the price is always lower than the cost of running from that truth. Shared fictions—within families or among friends or in businesses—are false, temporary comforts. The emotional toll of avoiding reality only gets steeper over time. And the last thing you can afford to lose is your authenticity, yourSELF.
Dr. Keith Ablow