The Simpson organization has reviewed about 70,000 assessments over the last 40 years. And our experience suggests that, given a choice, most people would avoid the truth if delivered with a “slap.” Psychologically speaking, people tend to move towards events or things that bring them comfort and move away from those circumstances that bring them psychological discomfort. So it is quite typical that people psychologically move away from being “slapped,” regardless of the situation.
Consider work published by Ram Charan (Fortune, June 1999), perhaps one of the most highly respected management consultants on the planet. In his report, the clear conclusions were that virtually every unsuccessful CEO he studied failed because he/she was not willing to be “slapped” by the truth. Rather, these failed executives wanted comfort by being “kissed with a lie.” In the majority of cases, Charan discovered that these CEO’s would not confront their non-performing lieutenants who they had appointed to senior posts. Rather, these corner office executives chose the path of avoiding the “slap” of truth. And it cost every one of these CEO’s their job. Consider that these very talented CEO’s were so concerned with avoiding the slap that they would rather “crash and burn” than deal with the reality of truth.
Perhaps it is worth considering your path and choices the next time this Russian proverb crosses your path. Yes, dealing with the “slap” frequently moves us psychologically against the grain, as it were. However, the strong possibility exists that moving away from one “slap” of truth is actually moving towards a much bigger one!