Truth-telling, a life-changing skill

What did I do over my Labor Day break? I learned the art of truth-telling. Well, more about truth-telling than I’ve allowed myself to learn before.

Now, in business I’m scrupulously honest. But in real life, if you ask me how I’m doing, as the chipper waiter did last night, I’m likely to dazzle with you a smile and a very sincere “Great, thanks!” Why burden a stranger with whatever’s chipped my chipperness? What purpose could that serve?

It could serve to create a human connection, that’s what. And if that advice sounds familiar it may be because it’s advice I give you—oh—just about every time I talk about writing or speaking.

Taking my own truth-telling medicine

Well, I wasn’t feeling chipper Saturday night, so I decided to engage in some radical truth-telling:

“I’m not doing so well,” I said to the waiter. “I’m coming down with a cold.”

He took what he hoped would be an imperceptible step backwards (I don’t blame him) and asked what he could do for me. “There’s a chicken spaetzle soup on the room service menu, but I don’t see it here in the restaurant.”

He smiled and said, “I think I can get that for you.” And he did.

The receptionist at the hotel I landed at Sunday—Day 1 of Yep, It’s Definitely a Cold—took that to the next level. Before I’d even left his desk, he ordered up some chicken soup to my room—his gift. I’d no sooner set foot in the room when room service called to say the chef was whipping up some soup just for me and was there anything else I’d like. More blankets? Pillows? What kind? “If you need anything else, just call me direct because it’ll be faster than calling housekeeping.”

Do I feel taken care of? You bet. And would any of this have happened if I’d returned chipper with chipper? Of course not.

Truth-telling and asking, Amanda Palmer-style

Fortunately for me, I’d been passing my plane rides (5 in the last 5 days) by reading Amanda Palmer‘s wonderful book The Art of Asking. Seth Godin recommended it during his Marketing Seminar and he’s right (of course); it’s brilliant. A combination of Palmer’s autobiography and the things she’s learned as an artist and as a human about being vulnerable enough to ask for things.

I finished the book about an hour ago and I already want to re-read it. And I hardly ever re-read books—certainly not the minute I’ve finished them.

P.S. My dinner just arrived, piled with extras: ginger ale, Italian water, hot decaf tea. And no check. Extra pillows showed up shortly after that.

I’ve got one more thing to do before I crash: write a thank-you note to the hotel while I still remember my benefactors’ names.

Truth-telling won’t always get you a free grilled chicken breast. But it will get you a human connection.

Want to communicate more courageously? Click here to get my e-book Do It Anyway: Tips for Courageous Writing