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Trainer’s Diary: Is Honesty the Best Policy?


Byron KaliesWhen it comes to feedback, do trainers need to tell the truth all the time? Byron Kalies argues that a few white lies are sometimes don't go amiss.

It seems a bit of a strange question I know but stay with me: Do you tell the truth at all times? We’ve had a little debate recently about feedback and when and when not to give feedback which made me think. I’ve also been re-reading psychotherapist and stress management expert Brad Blanton's ideas on "Radical Honesty", which definitely makes me think.

He asserts that you must tell the truth, all the truth, at all times irrespective of anything else. Which is quite interesting, and slightly too much for me, I’m afraid. It’s not that I disagree, it’s just that I think life is not that serious (perhaps I’m rationalising) and that people needn’t live life that intently. I personally find think Blanton's take on honesty too much. He sees any withheld communication as lying. This could lead to some interesting training events I guess.

On a non-radical level how honest are you as a trainer? Those stories, examples, you use to illustrate the key messages are they all 100% true? Have they all happened to you exactly as you tell it? What do you do when you’ve identified the main cause of the problem is the man that pays your wages? Are you ‘economical with the truth’, ‘tactful’? Do you ‘forget’ to mention certain things? What is truth anyway? If someone asked me the time and my watch had stopped would I be lying? Technically yes, but…

I remember questioning a former mentor about the honesty of an example he’d used. In the discussion it transpired that there was a lot of truth in it. Several incidents like this had happened and she had been combined them to come up with a clear illustration. Was this lying?

I guess behind this you need to look at the intention of the trainer. Is the story intended to help or to make the trainer look good? Is it used to manipulate people? However, what would happen if someone knew the ‘whole truth’? How would they feel? How would your credibility hold up?

People are a bit like you and I – they aren’t stupid. They can spot an outright lie at 20 paces, but some illustrations? I don’t know if it hurts if the odd incident is edited to include the key element, or is a combination of events. Perhaps I am rationalising. I wonder what others think?

There is that saying about “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” The question is, are you happy throwing a few rocks?


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