Like most people, having been brought up always to tell the truth, I learnt quite early on just how tricky it can be. Later, in my younger adult years, I became a Quaker and speaking ‘truth to power’ was considered an important foundation. In fact, Quakers have, for centuries, had the right to refuse to swear on the bible when giving evidence in a court of law, asserting that their ‘word’ is sufficient. However, as we all know speaking the truth can be almost impossible (or even foolish) at times. Therefore, it was with light relief that I heard the words of a wise rabbi last week “It’s always necessary to speak the truth” he said “but not always necessary to speak!”
In Dutch, there’s a nice expression ‘in alle talen zwijgen’, meaning, ‘in all languages say nothing’ (which I interpret to also include body language). Strangely, while I have found telling the truth very difficult at times in my personal life, in business I cannot remember it ever being an overbearing problem; even when in the middle of downsizing a company. Sure, the job may have been tough but the withholding of information just seemed natural and even fair to everyone. In negotiations too, it is normal and not considered lying to only reveal information when absolutely necessary.
I remember a time when my wife told me a secret and I had to swear to her not to tell a living soul. Several months later a person who could have been implicated in the secret asked me a leading question, obviously fishing for information. I truthfully replied that I know nothing about what he asked. However, what I didn’t say was that although I could remember who the secret referred to, I had completely forgotten what the actual secret was! L
Keeping some secrets can be a burden and if one is not careful, they can make you sick with worry. To help alleviate the load, I find that regularly reminding myself as to why I need to keep the information secret and who will be negatively impacted by its release, helps me get through the period until it becomes either unimportant or, indeed, I have simply forgotten it!
Have a good week,