• Gustavo Serbia

The Truth Department


Do you remember the film “A Few Good Men?” I enjoyed that movie. One of my all-time favorites. Remember "THE" scene? You know, the one where Kaffee, the lawyer played by Tom Cruise, confronts Coronel Jessep, played masterfully by Jack Nicholson. Kaffee put so much pressure that Jessep could not hold back and, well, told the truth about what he did to Santiago, the soldier who died.

At times, I want to be like Coronel Jessep. I want to simply tell the truth, what I feel and think, regardless of who, why or the consequences attached. I could be in charge of the "truth department, " and I will be the guy who is called just to tell it like it is. Imagine this:

  • You: Gustavo, I need your help.

  • Me: OK. What's the issue?

  • You: Well, things are not working with John. He is so difficult.

  • Me: Got it.

  • What you really want me to say is "John, you are being fired because you are a pain in the ass, and I am tired of putting up with your crap."

Don't tell me you have not thought about it too. Really? Not even once? Come on. Wait. What about telling the truth to your boss? Don't tell me you have not thought about it. Something like this perhaps:

  • You: I am so tired of my manager. I do not like him.

  • Me: OK. What you want me to say is "You know what, boss, no one likes you, including me. And why are you so cheap? No wonder the person before me resigned."

Thomas Jefferson once said that “honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Well, easy for him to say. Wait until you are honest with someone and they will want to pull your wisdom teeth.

See, articulating something like what I wrote above, while great to let it out, one must be ready for the possible consequences of saying what one thinks. But how do we tell someone the truth, what we really think, without getting into trouble, without offending them?

One thing I have learned is that saying what you honestly think must be to the benefit of the other person, not just yourself. You need to care for them. If you only care about what you are feeling or thinking without considering the other person, you are likely to be seen as an asshole, perhaps rightly so, but it will not get the other person to listen to what you are saying. Telling the truth, regardless of how painful or uncomfortable it can be, should help the other person, even if they do not see it or feel it immediately. Being honest does not mean one is being heartless or lacking empathy. Telling the truth requires, as the objective, to help the other person improve.

Now, I realize that beyond caring, there are other considerations and variables to consider. For example, how, when, why and with whom the information is being shared. Clearly, there is a time and a place for everything, including telling (or not) the truth to someone. I also acknowledge that at times, the objective is not to care

but to simply state the facts as they are. However, what I am arguing is that in cases where change is desired and performance to be improved, without care, the truth we share becomes words with no meaning, except perhaps to offend the person, not help them see what you see, or simply to make yourself feel better. That is something entirely different from what I am proposing, although there is also a time and a place for this.

So, I challenge you today to go on a truth binge; be Coronel Jessep. However, unlike him, make sure you bring genuine care and concern for the other person. If you do, chances are the truth you share will be received in a positive manner.

What else do you think must be considered so telling the truth is well received?


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