Do you ever find yourself telling people what they WANT to hear rather than what they NEED to hear? Are you ever on the receiving end of that statement and being told what the speaker WANTS you to hear rather than the truth you NEED to know?
The other day I had to tell someone that a cheque for $62,000.00 they were anticipating would take 18 weeks to process. The work to approve this amount had been done but the checks and balances system, the layers of bureaucracy needed to make the money appear in his bank account, would take an additional 18 weeks! I didn’t want to tell him. I totally expected him to go nuts on me and why shouldn’t he? After a heavy sigh, he said that he appreciated my honesty because he had been told numerous times that the money would be available “soon.” At least knowing the truth would allow him to make his own plans accordingly, whether it was the answer he liked or not. He actually sent a note of appreciation for my honesty – not what I expected at all while I was summoning the courage to tell him.
I was chatting with my neighbour yesterday about something similar as he and his family endure the wonders of a home reno and struggle with the same issue. He was told that the work would be completed in April, and then May, and then June, and for sure, mid July. The latest is mid August. Meanwhile they are living in their basement, eating most meals at restaurants and trying to contain their anger. The truth is not setting him free.
I feel that, politically, we are facing this issue all the time – we are being told what the speaker thinks we want to hear rather than what we need to hear. Every political campaign is full of platitudes, over simplifications, trust-me-I’ll-fix-its, fear-mongering, exaggerations, and promises we could never afford in a million years. Whose fault is it – does it really matter?
To a very great extent we all must accept responsibility for allowing people to over promise and under deliver. Every time we “go nuts” when someone gives us information that is different than what we want, we encourage them to alter their story so they don’t have to disappoint us. Sure it’s not totally our fault – some people are simply dishonest or afraid to present the truth. They are fearful that they will lose our business, our friendship or our vote. Naturally, we don’t need to accept poor service, inadequate workmanship or a lack of caring about our needs but on the other hand, we do need to exercise a bit of understanding and common sense about limitations that may prevent us from receiving instant gratification.
Right now, the political landscape seems to be overrun by people promising the impossible and the impractical, offering solutions that appeal to the fear in us rather than the ambition and courage and willingness to extend a helping hand. Instead of having us step UP into a better world, they would have us step DOWN into a quagmire of mediocrity, anger and resentment. If this disappoints us, then we need to look inside to see if we do the same thing in our own life. Are we afraid to disappoint the people around us and so adjust our story as a parent, spouse, salesperson, contractor, medical professional, teacher, coach, and friend and offer what the other person WANTS to hear instead of what they NEED to hear?
If we expect better leadership then it starts with us by being willing to hear the difficult, disappointing and unpopular realities with a degree of understanding and common sense and yes, maybe even a sense of humour. It is a two way street – to hear the truth, we must be willing to speak the truth, or suffer the consequences of disappointment and worse. It’s never easy to tell someone that they are going to be unhappy with the answer but the courage to do so is what makes us all human. It is time for each of us to do what we can in our own lives so that we can expect the same honesty in our business and political lives. Let’s stop being fooled by fear mongering, scare tactics, over-promising and letting people tell us what they think we WANT to hear instead of what we NEED to hear to make better decisions, live better lives and go forward with a sense of joy and peace.