I know I have experienced it. I am sure you have as well–those times in your life when you hear fiction becoming facts. It all starts innocently: Someone in your organization thinks they heard something about someone else, and they mention it to another who in turn passes it on to their friends. Do you remember the old shampoo commercial from the 80s, or maybe it was the 70s, that went, ‘I told two friends and they told two friends’ and so on.
Well it hit me last week again. I wasn’t sure if it was a new rumor about me or just the same one from a few months ago. I was in the elevator with one of the senior people on my team who mentioned that a rumor had circulated the week before that this past Friday was my last day. I said, “Strange Place this is……” My last day has come and gone a few times, and I still seem to be on the payroll.
I dug a little deeper and found out from another person that two other senior people would be departing with me. Low and behold, they are still around.
I ran into another situation this past week where a junior financial resource was told by a very senior person that something had been discussed at the executive table and a direction set. Further research confirmed that no discussion took place and no official direction had been set.
So how does fiction become fact? You might wonder why even bother trying to figure it out. After all, we have better things to do with our time. Well, just as security and safety are everyone’s business, the truth is also everyone’s business.
Why do people stretch the truth? Mostly for their own purposes and gain. Why can’t we all just stay focused on the truth? So what do you do when you encounter, or are about to encounter a fiction to fact moment? Here are my top five ways to prevent fiction from becoming fact:
- Always speak the truth. Never stretch the truth when describing a matter to anyone. Best to say nothing than to start to speculate.
- Stay away from the places people gather to “create their own reality.” Take time to be on your own, although you will be cutoff from the juicy rumors.
- If you hear something spoken where you know what is being presented is not correct, gently introduce the truth. People will thank you for it. There are three things no one can argue with: truth, common sense and charity.
- ALWAYS listen to what people truly mean when they speak. Some people weave in enough “speculation space” leaving others to you know, ‘wink wink, nudge nudge, know what I mean,’ make it up themselves. Listen for what people say and mean. Watch their mannerisms, where and how they walk, talk and gesture. This tells you much more about the person and what they are saying than the actual words they are speaking.
- When you hear something that just doesn’t seem right, chances are it isn’t. It is much easier to defend the truth than a lie, so ask a lot of questions of the people who are telling you the information. Seek out people who should know the truth and ask them questions. Keep asking who, what, where, when, why and how. There is no dumb question and no end to the questions you can ask.
We all have a role to play in communicating and defending the truth. Don’t put up with anything less than that. If you hear something that doesn’t sound right, it’s probably not. It’s likely someone’s attempt to create fact from fiction.