top of page

Part #2: Your highest responsibility is to tell the truth

Part #2: Your highest responsibility is to tell the truth, and in the process, do your best to preserve the recipient's sense of dignity.

On Monday I wrote about the first half of this quote from my psychologist - the importance of telling the truth.

This week, we'll talk about the second half of this quote - telling the truth in a way that seeks to preserve the recipient's sense of dignity.

What I like about the advice I received from my psychologists all those years ago, is that she balanced the necessity of telling the truth with the necessary care to try and preserve the recipient's sense of dignity in the process. The invitation here is not just to mindlessly mouth off to those around you to let them know "your truth". We have an opportunity to use our words in a way that seeks to have a net positive impact, even if it's hard for the person to receive.

One of the best tools I’ve found for these conversations is called SBI:




It's an incredibly simple framework for constructive conversations. In essence, the framework seeks to avoid the usual finger pointing which accompanies explosive conversations (which rarely lead to constructive outcomes) and instead, provide a rational framework for describing the situation you found yourself in with the person concerned, the behavior they exhibited, and the impact that their behaviour had on you.

Here’s a fictitious worked example:

Let’s say that I’m having dinner with my wife's parents, and the whole time we’re sitting at the table my mother-in-law is texting on her cell phone. Here’s how I might engage with my mother-in-law in a conversation straight after dinner, in private:

"When we come to your house for dinner on a Sunday night (situation) and you are distracted on your cell phone texting other people (behaviour) it makes me feel like I’m not important enough to warrant your attention (impact)."

Without SBI, this conversation (if it happens at all) might look something like this:

"I’ve made an effort to come over for dinner with you, and the way you thank me is by sitting at the table and ignoring me for your online friends. You don’t care about me enough to even give me your attention, and you’re purposefully disrespecting me."

The SBI conversation is far more likely to result in a productive outcome for me and my mother-in-law, and her sense of dignity is more likely to be kept intact throughout the conversation.

With the SBI framework, with the rational description of their behavior and the impact it had on you, we avoid the usual finger pointing and labelling which might otherwise accompany these sorts of interactions. When you start making assumptions about others intentions, conversations very quickly turn and become unproductive.

Just because you have an SBI conversation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re right, but at least the conversation has a better chance of leading to a constructive engagement between you and the recipient. Just because you use the SBI framework, it doesn't necessarily mean that you won't hurt the recipient in the process, or that you're guaranteed to preserve their sense of dignity. We can never fully control the way our words are received by those around us, but we can control our authentic effort to be honest, and preserve the recipient's sense of dignity.

Think back on the last two weeks in your own life, and try to identify a time when you could have, or should have, had a truthful conversation with someone in your life. You can decide right now that you’re going to have that conversation, and use the SBI framework to assist you.

Being authentic and honest is like a muscle that builds the more you use it, and you become stronger as a result.

Don’t wait, start now.


Subscribe to my blog posts
bottom of page