Tell the Truth Faster

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Principle #50 in Jack Canfield’s book “The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” is Tell the Truth Faster.

Many of us avoid telling the truth because it can be uncomfortable, for ourselves or others. However, when we don’t tell the truth, or others don’t tell the truth, it just makes communication that much more difficult.

It is much more valuable when we tell the truth faster.

As an example, I recently heard a doctor on a radio show talk about addiction to prescription medications, such as pain pills. When she gained access to an online prescription database, she realized that some of her patients were visiting as many as ten other doctors to receive the same prescriptions that she was prescribing.

At the very least, she realized she was prescribing medications that here patients didn’t need. More she recognized that these patients were likely addicted to the medications. During the next visit, she told each patient what she saw and said this needed to be addressed. Some of the responses included:

  • Admittance, and a genuine request for help.
  • Anger, stomping out of the office, and never returning.
  • Negative online reviews (on Yelp and online sources), saying the doctor was inept.

Despite knowing this is how the patients would respond, she never hesitated. She realized her values didn’t allow her to do anything other than point out the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it might be. And if she delayed telling the truth, it would the problem would only get worse.

“When in doubt, tell the truth.”

– Mark Twain

Steps to Have a Crucial Conversation

You may not be a doctor that prescribes potentially addictive medications. However, you very likely have times when you need to tell the truth to someone else, but realize that it might be a difficult conversation. This can be with an employee, a family member, or a friend.

You can also think of these difficult conversations as crucial conversations. If you don’t have the conversations, the underlying problems will continue to grow. Ideally you should have them as soon as you can once you realize they are needed. And many times, you’ll find that the other person was also aware of the same issue, but just didn’t know how to raise the topic.

Jack outlines the following steps to have this crucial conversation.

  1. Determine your motivation. Do you want to have the conversation just to express yourself and get something off your chest, or do you want to solve a problem?
  2. Ensure you schedule enough time to complete the conversation.
  3. Plan the conversation in advance. Start with the facts without any interpretation, feelings, or judgement. For example, the doctor started by pointing out that an online database showed that the patient received identical prescriptions from multiple doctors.
  4. Ask the other person, “How do you see this?” Get them to describe what they view as the potential impact or consequence of  these facts.
    If your goal is simply to express yourself and get this issue off your chest, you’re done.
  5. However, if you’re looking to resolve the problem, ask the other person what they would like to do to resolve the problem.
  6. If you can identify a resolution that you both agree on, document the actions that each of you will take, when you will take them, and how you’ll follow up.

Two additional resources to help have these conversations are Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most,  and Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High.

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About This Post

I’ve been learning from Jack Canfield (of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame) since 2008. I credit much of my success (including authoring or co-authoring more than 40 books) to applying principles in my life that he teaches. I’m currently going through his book “The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be,” covering one principle a week.


Here’s a link to other musing’s on Jack Canfield’s Success Principles.


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