Some of you might be too young to remember the 1992 movie A Few Good Men with Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. I actually don’t remember much about the movie except for Jack Nicholson’s famous line: ‘You can’t handle the truth.’
This line will often spring to mind throughout the day, sometimes when I’m in the middle of a coaching session, other times as I’m preparing to meet with a coachee or when I’m developing content for the Peeplcoach program.
As coaches one of our key objectives is to support individuals to create greater self-awareness, encouraging them to identify what is working, what is not working, what impact they are having and what their options are. With greater awareness, they can see more opportunities and hopefully create better outcomes for themselves and their organisation.
However, building greater self-awareness take courage. And let’s be honest – not all of us are brave enough to face who and what we truly are. Some of us cannot handle the truth.
Being self-aware is not just about understanding ourselves. We also have to be open to feedback and, most importantly, we need to be willing to do something about those areas that need change. And this can be hard work.
So, what are some of the factors that stop us from creating self-awareness and actioning plans to change?
- It’s safer and easier to stay the same than to change. As humans we’re actually hardwired to avoid change, even if we know a situation is doing us harm. It’s a case of better the devil you know because at least things that stay the same are predictable. Many of us are afraid that if we are forced to confront certain facts about ourselves, we might actually be forced to act. Think about the obese person who doesn’t go to the doctor for a check-up, but instead chooses to believe they are just ‘big-boned’ because they don’t want to make the changes required to protect their health.
- We fear not being liked. If we avoid hearing what others are saying about us then we can continue to pretend that everything is fine. The idea of finding out that there are people who don’t like us or aspects of ourselves that could be improved is just too scary to face.
- We might lose the opportunity to be a victim or to blame others. As a coach and as an executive recruiter I see this a lot, in my friends and family but also in myself. Sometimes it is easier to ignore hard truths or to find excuses as to why we are not promoted, invited or included. I hear more excuses that involve blaming political correctness, sexism, racism, ageism, political manipulation or ‘other people’ than I hear individuals acknowledging the role they might be playing in unsatisfactory situation.
- Our vision of ourselves and our ego need protecting. It is really difficult to hear what we are not doing well or what people do not like about us. Just as we are hardwired to avoid change, we are also hardwired to avoid pain. In prehistoric times, pain and threat would come from other tribes and wild animals; now we are more likely to fear rejection or isolation from our friends and communities.
- Fear of the unknown can be paralysing. If you ask for feedback, you don’t really know what you will hear, and sometimes it seems safer to hear nothing at all. As they say, ignorance can be bliss!
How many items in that list resonate with you? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably more than you’d like to admit. So, what are you going to do about it? How many of these fears and mental roadblocks are you willing to tackle in order to learn to ‘handle the truth’?
As you think about your career, leadership responsibilities, life, friendships and family, we challenge you to seek the truth – the whole truth, not just the small parts of it you’re comfortable with. Ask your partner, direct report, manager or friend what they think you need to start, stop and continue doing to be the best you can be.
Only with the complete picture, founded on honest and open feedback, will you be able to develop and implement the plans that can result in genuinely productive changes in your life, business and career. Can you handle the truth?
If you would like to find out more about our Peeplcoach programs for yourself or your teams, take a look at our free resources here.
Find out if you are ready to ‘handle the truth’ or contact us here to find out more about our programs.