Anyone that has been in the corporate world for any length of time, watches the news, or reads a newspaper experiences it frequently…
- “We need to ensure that our narrative on that situation is believable.”
- “What spin do you think we should use to make our key point?”
- “Here are the talking points you need to follow – don’t deviate from them.”
- “What messaging do we need to develop for these changes?”
- “How should we craft the dialogue around this?”
Certainly, there are times when proper communication is needed to ensure that the message is understood and clear to the hearers. This would be important when communicating significant changes to employee benefits, for example. However, in a large percentage of cases, when you hear these phrases or comments used, the real purpose is to shape the truth to fit a pre-determined, hoped for outcome.
I’m reminded of a quote that talks perfectly to this issue:
“Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving.” – James E. Faust
For the most part, when you feel that you need a “narrative, message, spin, or dialogue” around an issue, you are either trying to deceive or you are condescending to your audience. In other words, you don’t believe your target audience can understand the issue (or, you don’t want them to understand), so you attempt to direct their understanding in the direction you choose. For example, companies often use terms such as “restructuring, reorganizing, redeploying, or transforming” to describe reductions for cost-cutting purposes. In today’s world, most employees are sophisticated enough to understand the business landscape and the importance of the action. So, why not just call it what it is?
I have also experienced examples of companies that do a very good job of helping employees understand with transparency the rationale of significant actions. The message is more greatly appreciated, better understood, and more readily accepted when the company treats employees with this level of trust and respect. Speaking the truth clearly, honestly, and openly is always better in circumstances that impact others personally.
Some organizations have entire departments or groups tasked to “manage the spin.” This is especially apparent when dealing with politics at all levels. Again, whatever happened to the day when the truth was given and individuals were left to interpret and decide for themselves the impact? It seems in many ways that all information has been “dumbed down” or that it must be manipulated to ensure that it is understood in the way designed by the communicator.
Individuals also twist the truth to meet their personal or career needs. It is rare these days to find an individual known for their candor or to meet someone that “always tells the unvarnished truth.” That is unfortunate.
So, the challenge for today is this… Let’s endeavor to be more open about the truth. And, in the process, let’s trust that others can properly discern and handle the truth when presented. It is as simple as that… let’s strive to be “…truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving” individuals. The world around us will be better as a result.