A post about truth telling.

It seemed like the right decision at the time. I put my coffee on the roof of the car while I opened my umbrella.  That is, until the umbrella hit the cup, the lid popped off as it hit the middle of my back, and hot coffee poured down the back of my suit and into my shoes.

spilled coffeeI tried to jump out of the way, as the last quarter cup landed in the driver’s seat of my car.  Now late for a very important appointment, I closed the door and headed toward the building… squish, squish, squish… the sound of coffee in my shoes.

I’d been warned not to be late and no “funny business” when I met this CFO, a referral from a very satisfied client and one of his direct reports.  This encounter could be career limiting for both of us.

Certain that he could smell the coffee and detect the sound coming from my shoes, I decided honesty was the best policy and introduced myself by sharing the parking lot fiasco. There was a painful pause before his face broke into a grin, and he said, “Anyone who can own this as their first impression is someone I can trust.”

Looking back on that experience, I can’t imagine not telling the truth. Yet standing in my coffee-filled shoes, considering that this individual might become a very lucrative client, I experienced a moment of doubt.  Would I earn his approval and his respect if I shared this experience?

Admitting my embarrassing mistake kept the conversation and the relationship “real.”  Truth-telling is respectful and creates a new place for shared understanding.  Every day we battle the forces of human nature and the desire to protect our egos in order to build relationships with others.

Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations, says “Authenticity is not something you have; it issomething you choose.”  In my next post, we’ll explore the choice from multiple points of view.