Can You Handle the Truth?

They say everything happens when it’s supposed to. Timing is everything. You get information when you need it most. When you’re ready for the lesson, the teacher will appear, that sort of thing. I believe that, and never more so than today.

I was talking to a friend. We’ve known each other for 20 years plus, and I trust him implicitly. He’s one of the few people I will just sit on the phone and talk to. He’s a wonderful listener for a start. He’s also very smart, and while he’s unafraid to call me out when need be, he’s kind. I know nothing that he says will ever be aired to deliberately hurt me, nor will he ever divulge any of my secrets.

Today we talked about message delivery, good vs. bad when it comes to communicating effectively; how, when, what tack to take when speaking to promote a certain action or belief. We talked about Kanye, who he’s worked with in the past – bad delivery – then the conversation shifted to Will Smith and his successful YouTube channel. The actor has made more headlines lately for his commentary on how to manage your mind and conquer fear than he has for his work on the big screen – good delivery. Both of these men have tremendous reach. Their platforms are vast, global, as is their ability to influence others.

They also care about their people and work to preach messages that will uplift us and simultaneously encourage us to take full responsibility for our power to change our own lives. But one of these men is perennially misunderstood, thus his ability to influence is flawed. Why? Poor delivery.

My friend and I are both very analytical, particularly of ourselves. We share a belief that introspection can lead to self-improvement, and we don’t shy away from helping each other out with the hard truth when and where needed. We both acknowledge, however, that we know ourselves quite well, and even if we say the right things to each other, if we as individuals are not ready to act on the information, well. What is there to do?

Today I revealed something to him about him that I’d been holding in almost the entire time we’ve known each other. Something I was shocked to learn today that he had never, ever considered. I can’t tell you what. It involves a secret that he shared with me, something not many people know.

But after I said this thing, made this connection between his past and his present, there was dead silence on the phone. I was sitting in the bed, my laptop and papers scattered everywhere from working, and after I said this thing my heart just dropped. I thought, now you’ve done it, Kellye.

I immediately started to beat myself up. Bitch! Must you be so straight forward? Is empathy a completely foreign concept to you? And all the while I thought these things, there was silence. I sleep on satin pillow cases – good for the skin – and I slowly slid off the edge of the bed until my head was perhaps three inches from the floor.

I was all set to apologize when he said, “I never thought of that.”

I was flabbergasted. “How fascinating,” I whispered, and then I hit myself in the forehead, thinking, dummy! What are you saying now?

We continued talking. I apologized. He thanked me for telling him. “I wasn’t ready for that, but I was ready for that,” he laughed.

I never told him before because I thought surely he had considered this oh so important thing, but he assured me he had not. And as I gave him different examples to illustrate my point, detailed scenarios from our shared past, he laughed. It was pained sometimes, but laughter none the less, and then he’d say, tell me more. I did.

I also never mentioned this thing because I thought it would hurt him to talk about, and as brash as I can be, I almost never deliberately try to hurt people without provocation. I don’t think you should never talk without a reason. Communication without purpose is a waste of time, and it can be extremely irritating.

I always think of it in three phases: We communicate to share, to learn or to connect. Sometimes all three or some combination therein, but none of these things is inherently frivolous. It’s why speech has so much power, to influence, to change, and certainly to offend or to do harm.

It’s why message delivery is so very important. Before you convey a message to an audience you have to learn who they are. For instance, what information do they likely have before you speak? This will dictate how they absorb, or whether or not they accept, your message. It will also influence, or it should influence, how you craft the message pre-delivery.

Then you have to consider, how might they perceive you? Do you have a controversial past that could influence how the audience will receive your words? Will Smith doesn’t. Kanye does.

It’s also important to ask yourself if you’re the right person to deliver the message. Not everyone is a great communicator. That just is what it is. It’s why some leaders are extremely vocal, while other captains of their respective industries are rarely heard from, only read about.

The savvy leaders in the latter group find other ways to communicate. They hire eloquent people to speak on their behalf. Or, they write what they cannot effectively say. They hire the best editors, they control interviews, approve copy, speak in brief, well rehearsed sound bites, lean on pictures or visual communication tools over verbal ones. They do whatever is necessary to control their narrative. This works because there are so many communication delivery systems available, but only if you start with, “speaking is not my strength. I need an alternative.”

Some of us don’t accept or believe that. Ego has and always will be many high profile people’s downfall. Why? There could be any number of reasons, but I think the main two are lack of self-awareness, and lack of honest companionship. Meaning, that individual’s circle is afraid or unwilling to deliver the hard and potentially painful truths that we occasionally need to hear to grow.

I’ve always been extremely self-motivated, but the power of one’s circle to exert a positive or negative influence can not be underestimated. You need people around you who will tell you the truth, but you also need to be receptive to it when they do. You also have to be willing to solicit tough feedback.

Maybe that’s why I decided, after two decades of holding back, that today was the day to reveal that one thing to my friend. It worked out – this time. My delivery was effective. He was ready for the message, and I’m grateful that he believed what I was saying, and that he made me believe knowing it would make a difference.

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