One thing that I often think about is someone’s “real life” vis-à-vis their social media life or just their social life in general. You know what I’m talking about… the impression of “LIFE IS GREAT!” based entirely on happy-go-lucky pictures and postings on Facebook, Twitter and other sites. We are left thinking, “Wow! They really got it going on! What’s wrong with me?” Turns out, everyone has their ups and downs. Everyone has challenges. Sometimes life really is great! Occasionally, it is less so.
Furthermore, we, as human beings, have this social tendency when people say, “how are you?” we respond with a throwaway, “fine.” It turns out that people rarely want the “truth” – whether good or bad – they are simply exchanging pleasantries.
These phenomena made me think about a situation I once found myself in. Several years ago, when I first launched my business, my pal, Jayne, and I got together to reconnect. Over the years, in various positions that we have each held, we’ve met to talk about business. Our conversations have always been really honest. We openly share the successes… and the challenges… associated with professional life. Like me, she left a large firm on her own to open a solo accounting practice. I recall being impressed with how quickly she was able to generate a book of business and jump in with both feet.
Not long ago, Jayne connected with another friend of mine, Helen. When they realized that they both knew me, Jayne asked, “How is Alana doing? I remember when she went out on her own, she was having a hard time getting her business running.”
Here’s the thing: I never said that. And, I truly believe Jayne cares about me and asked Helen with genuine interest and concern about how I was doing. However, that I left her with the impression I did was extremely alarming to me. Actually, business is great! Is it tough? Of course. Business is. But, it is also the most rewarding work I have ever done. I am pursuing my life’s passion, I have wonderful, engaged, loyal clients and we fuel each other. I have no complaints.
This situation made me think about the notions we leave behind when we communicate with others – whether face-to-face, via social media, or just in passing. That Jayne thought my business was struggling was so disappointing – obviously, something I said in a moment of honestly left her with that feeling. But, I wonder, should I have been less honest, more evasive, generally ambiguous about what was going on, about my struggles, about my frustrations? Should I have painted more of a “Facebook image” of how things were progressing? I’m not sure. In fact, a recent article in the Chicago Booth Review entitled, “Why we should teach people how to lie” suggested that, “in some situations, it’s better to be dishonest.” Hmm….
It’s still my intention to have truthful, transparent conversations with my friends and colleagues. However, I may do a little more checking to ensure I have left them with the right impression, that I tell them when a situation is confidential, that I ask for help when it’s needed and offer it in return when I can.
I’m going for Truth vs. Truth-Lite. You?