How to Tell the Truth

Truth

Everyone wants the truth, right?

Ask your spouse or your boss or your employees or your customers… they’ll tell you all they want is the truth.

But that’s a lie.

We hate the truth. Our reaction to real truth is hostility and fear.

Do we really want to hear the truth about why we’re fat, or why we’re broke, or why our kids are under-achieving? Tough stuff to process for most.

And yet telling the simple raw truth is one of the most effective attention and persuasion tactics available. Especially these days, with people sick to death of being lied to and betrayed.

But if people reject what you say, truth or not, you’re back where you started.

Guys like Buddha and Jesus had this problem.

The solution remains the same.

Tell a story.

About the Author: Brian Clark is Executive Editor of Copyblogger and co-founder of DIY Themes, creator of the innovative Thesis Theme for WordPress. Get more from Brian on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. A really agree with you. We hate the truth.

    Regards,
    @monthiel

  2. Powerful sentiment, Brian. The truth hurts most of the time, but its what we need and deep down always what we want if we’re willing to admit it.

    Awesome, succinct blog post. Thank you!

  3. I follow the story principle all the time. It’s true how we hate to hear the truth even if we know what the truth is :-) Hearing is seems to endorse it and makes it final. It’s so hard to hear it like it is from even the doctor or the lawyer…. But strangely, I’ve found that it is easier to tell children the truth – they take it so much more in good spirit that adults do :-)

  4. Agree in principle, but the problem with stories is the message always boils down to interpretation.

  5. At the damnedest times, Truth will rear up, like a cobra ready to strike. Most of us run when faced head-on with the stinging barb of Truth. Unaccustomed as we are to experiencing Truth, it feels like the enemy. What happens, then, when we look this Cobra of Truth in the eye?

    If we’re smart, we love it.
    If we’re brave, we embrace it.
    If we’re wise, we own it.

    Your story/parable idea is a good one… though I wonder if people will make the connection if it’s too subtle.

  6. My grandmother died this morning. She was a firebrand. She told you the truth no matter how blunt it was. But she did it with such style, you magically didn’t mind.

    She was simply more interesting than everyone around her, even when she was hemming and hawing at you directly.

    Her life was worth writing about.

    Tell the truth, but tell it with style and your life will be worth writing about, too.

  7. Sorry to hear about your Grandmother, Shane. She sounds like she’ll be missed by all who knew her.

  8. Wow. Talk about crystallizing the truth of the matter.

    Authenticity and transparency must be embodied if you want to achieve sustainable online success because people do crave the “simple raw truth.”

    But if it isn’t conveyed in a way that inspires them to take your desired action, then what’s the point of your “revelation?”

    It really does always boil down to a story… even when you’re telling the truth. Powerful, B.

  9. Thanks B.

    Yeah, everyone has “that one person” they know who shines brighter than anybody else around them. She was it.

    Find a way to shine like that and you can tell everyone around you ANYTHING, even the bad stuff.

  10. Just quoted your take on truth in Telling the Truth versus Fudging It (Monday Work Etiquette #82) on ‘Serge the Concierge’.

    Is one aspect of it the fact that we have a hard time accepting our shortcomings?

    Take care

    Serge
    ‘The French Guy from New Jersey’

  11. Good post, Brian.

    But I think that if someone doesn’t like or accept the truth… he is not mature.

    I agree with Shane: tell the truth with style. But tell always the truth.

  12. Brian, Thanks for the hammer over the head. I think this is really good.
    I can’t help but think that if a person is inclined to maybe/even think about what is being said to them they will eventually get it. Just a thought.

  13. I dunno.. personally I don’t find myself rejecting or hating the truth much. I find I mostly embrace it. Guess that’s just me?

  14. Message to Shane. I’m sorry your grandmother died this morning. THE TRUTH is I’d like you to consider writing a bio-vignette about her – I’m collecting stories now in the male voice on grandmothers, mothers, etc. If you’re interested, please email me: answers@thestorywoman.com. or my website.

    Another form of truth that people are often afraid to use: Ask straight out when you want something, don’t manipulate, don’t play games.

  15. timely post…and smart…people don’t want that bad tasting medicine…gotta throw some sweetener in there too.

  16. I have this thought about telling the truth.

    When you are telling the truth, you will tend to open up a lot of things which many people are trying to hide.

    To me, I find being truthful is the way to have myself led in the positive way in life.

    I find it no point to hide the truth, when I have to create another lie to play along with the truth. And I found that the truth can have equal standing to work on, but it’s the real growth I am going into.

    I simply can’t keep of track of the many lies, if I have to.

    No man is perfect here. But I think I will rather grow truthfully because I feel good.

  17. “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” – Jack Nicholson.

  18. After more than 50 years of writing, I have found one fact about “truth telling” has persisted. “You can be right and truthful about anything as long as in the process, you don’t point out that the other guy is wrong!”

  19. It is best to be truthful, if you start by telling lies, then you have more lies to cover up the initial lie and before you know it you are so confused you forget what you are lying about.

    I would prefer it if people told the truth to me, then I know where I stand and we would be on equal footing. Unfortunatly the world doesn’t work like that and it is down to us to work out what is the truth and what are lies.

    Some people though would deny the truth until they are blue in the face. I don’t know what you could do in that situation.

  20. You make a good point Brian, but not sure about the comparisons to Jesus and Buddha–both were master storytellers, after all.

  21. Maria, should we strive to be anything less than master story tellers ourselves? :)

  22. Maria, Truth be told maybe they new what they were dealing with?

  23. I’m a big fan of a line in the movie “Kindgom Of Heaven.”

    “Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Speak the truth, always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong.”

  24. Dear Brian,
    It’s funny how sometimes topics are in the wind, and many people pick up on them and talk about them at the same time. My blog is all about stories, the “real” ones and the fictional ones, as told through any medium. This week’s cover story of the New York Times Book Review, about a biography of Donald Barthelme, is called “The Story Artist.”
    And now here are you, with the wonderful advice of telling things through stories. Of course, when you mention Jesus, on cannot help but think of parables, that were nothing other than what you suggest, truth masquerading as a story. And of course Buddha did the same thing. Buddhism is full of wonderful stories that teach lessons.
    Thanks for the reminder! :-)

  25. Interesting point. I think most everyone wants the truth, we just want it slightly watered down and tolerable! We want it in little bursts so that it is easily digested. And if someone doesn’t want the truth, they probably just want zero information – not a lie!

  26. I’ve taken on this policy lately called “radical truth” with my friends and girlfriend. It’s an interesting thing to see how the truth can really provoke people…into good and bad moods.

  27. What synergy! I just yesterday sent a sincere and heartfelt letter to a friend that had disappointed me in a number of areas. I felt that I needed to be completely truthful with him for our friendship to have any meaning. It was hard to write and hard to hit the “send” button, but at least I know I’ve been true to myself. Thanks for the reinforcement today. :)

  28. I was wondering since it seems that we often get anything but the truth most times that we are just conditioned to the point where when we do get the truth its like OMG I just don’t believe it?

  29. I definitely agree with the last statement.

    I still prefer the truth, even when it hurts. Sometimes the truth is the only thing that propels me forward.

  30. Truth is such a great connector between ourselves and others as well as our small selves with our larger selves…because large truths reminds us that in the midst of the minute things we focus on: what to have for dinner, the need to pay the electric bill, there is this whole other realm which guides and responds to us and we lead a much more meaningful life if we attend to it. And stories make truth universal, which means everyone finds themselves in it.

  31. Couldn’t agree more, but I’ll just point out that just because something’s a story, doesn’t mean it has to be a lie. And it doesn’t have to be the truth either.

    For example. Right now, I’m reading “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”. It’s one of those books I always meant to get around to, but never did. Until now.

    Lawrence’s book is telling a story, and it’s not the truth, yet it is full of the truth, and definitely shouldn’t be categorized as a lie, even if it’s full of things that never happened. You know?

  32. What a wonderful post, Brian! My quest for truth has triggered many tears and tantrums. I’ve learnt the hard way that truth, blurting and interrogation are NOT the same. I’m finding a balance, but it isn’t easy. The price of dishonesty is eternal vigilance, and who has THAT much spare time these days?! Onya, Sonya! P. :)

  33. @Tina – everything boils down to interpretation, including the truth. Perception is everything…

    Brian, these short posts are always the best. Quick to process and plenty of time to let the mind make what we need out of it. The fewer the ingredients the better the recipe.

  34. Sure, the truth should be a given. Any debate about being true or not seems primitive to me.

    Stories are to truth as actions are to words: they’re just more convincing.

    Let’s not forget opinions, too. They’re like a**holes: everyone has one and they’re usually full of sh*t.

    Thanks again Brian — you always keep us thinking :)

  35. I find the truth refreshing. It just sounds better, if that makes any sense. I think people are more discerning than we give them credit for, and building any kind of brand based on a lie is playing with fire.

  36. @ Shane – Sorry for your loss. May Comfort take you into it’s fold.

    @Brian – A wise person once said, “Even facts cannot convince someone of a truth they do not want to hear.”

    To that, a wise Copyblogger said, “Tell a story.”

  37. I agree with the concept of telling stories as a tool to tell the truth. But my question is how do you develop the stories? I know what the truth is but where do I find the story that will share the truth?

  38. Like the truth or not – the fact remains that if we would embrace the truth rather than run it would set us free – Jesus said that (my paraphrase).

  39. Very true. Nobody likes the truth no matter how you try to gently give it to them.

    But then if you lie they get just as mad so you can;t really win. :(

  40. Wonderful insight. I love when Brian writes. More of that please?

  41. I have notice somewhat of a truism working in sales (print sales) where something in manufacturing blew up behind the scenes. The sales rep lied to the client and the client found out anyways after the fact wow talk about drama and a not very good situation! (it doesn’t matter much who’s fault it is by that time and there is always some impact whether its schedule or money or both …….) Then again I’ve seen the rep be honest with the client and even if its not the best situation both parties work to resolve the situation in a very positive way and out come works out very well! I feel the lesson I’ve learned is by being honest in this example is that you aren’t taking away any client options by being honest in a timely fashion. I’ve heard/seen say well we can do this instead which will same a week and we don’t have to spend x amount of dollars which many times is a lot better than the alternative! (Sorry if I was to wordy)!

  42. The truth hurts. Unfortnately, telling the truth is controversial.
    But, controversy sells and gets eyeballs. So, tell the truth.

  43. There’s an old Zulu saying I think applies: “There’s no such thing as truth — only stories.”

  44. What good is the truth if people don’t pay attention to it–telling stories brings attention to the truth.

  45. Wow, you are so right! we hate the truth because it can heal our wounds. And we use our wounds as the excuse to stay right where we are.

  46. Jesus and Ghandi told the truth, too. And look what happened to them. People only want the truth if it confirms their already-held biases. If not, watch out!

  47. Every issue of my blog carries the following definition that I believe covers this situation:

    “cognitive dissonance — Filtering out information that conflicts with what one already believes, in an effort to ignore that information and reinforce one’s beliefs.

    Editors note: I will be repeating the “cognitive dissonance” definition for quite a while since it is practiced by so many — known by so few! “

  48. Great post! On another angle, the best stand up comedians are experts in telling the raw truth. How many of their jokes start with “did you ever notice when…” followed by a punchline of truth. The things we either don’t want to admit, or are embarrassed about can also be very funny with the right frame of mind.

  49. Interesting article. All I would like to add is that there is telling the truth, the whole and nothing but the truth… and then there’s stoping half way!

  50. Telling stories is one of the hardest forms of post to master. And there’s the matter of telling the truth which makes it doubly hard. In advice posts, if you’re particularly impoverished with ideas, you can google for some ideas to give heft to your post. Or read other relevant blogs. But to look deep into your inner core and come up with kernel of truths and find the courage to put them on paper? There’s the challenge. I wish I can say I have mastered it, but sure can give it a mighty try every time I sit down to write.

  51. I’ve found storytelling to be so much more effective than plain facts, but also frequently much more difficult. I recommend “The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations” by Stephen Denning for some help in how to craft storys to make a point. Not easy but can be very satisfying as well.

  52. In Art, you need to be willing to express YOUR TRUTH fully. Whether it is writing a story, performing a role, painting on a canvas or blogging a post. It takes courage. If people who view your work can’t handle it, than that is their own shortcomings. Don’t allow for negative influence but rather remain focused on your own truth because that is where the music plays for humanity. You can lie in life but you cannot ever lie in your craft.

  53. Sweet and smooth, this post just forced me to leave a comment.

    I knew this all the way – and I mastered the art of not telling on your face truths. It just creates enemies.

    Your style of telling it – you are killing me.

  54. Hi Brian,

    This is my first comment on CopyBlogger. Read many of your posts but never commented. Today I have subscribed.

    I love this post. Excellent. But as adviced by you, Everyone including me will “Tell a story!” and thats the bitter truth!.. :)

  55. Brian,

    Very true. We may incorrectly view truth-telling as hostility, but humans are primed for learning lessons vicariously through story-telling.

    Of course, I think you may have forgotten your own story on this one haha.

  56. This is a brief yet excellent post.

    I agree with Vidya though, children can take up the truth better than adults.

    Though people have different perspectives, at times, we all have our similarities, like the fear of knowing the truth; be it the truth that we aren’t actually good, that we aren’t good parents, or that we have made mistakes, terrible mistakes.

    But in the end, we can’t go around our life telling ourselves that it is okay, everything is going to be just fine. We can’t live a life full of lies all the time.

    Sometimes, we need to know the truth, accept it, embrace it, and live with it.

    Even if at times, the truth hurts.

  57. Yeah that is really hard to be honesty… but do not fear to be honest. that is will be better for your life.

    Nice Share Thanks