Truth and Lies: It’s empathy that communicates

How can the president of one of the most powerful nations on earth tell some 20,000 lies (and counting) and still grow his support?

The answer lies in responding to what people want to hear.

The best leaders, of course, do not lie; but simply ‘telling the truth’ is not sufficient either.

‘The truth’ is not spoken into a vacuum. People hear what we say in the context of what they are struggling with, what they are excited about and where their emotions lie, and what they hear is interpreted accordingly.

Our position (whether CEO or parent) does not ensure that we are heard. Only empathy opens that door. When we demonstrate that we have listened and that we understand, then we may be heard.

Managers too often simply present ‘facts’ without engaging with their employees:

  • There will be no pay increase
  • This is what you need to do
  • You must work harder

Churchill’s ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ speech was not what wartime Britain wanted to hear. But, more than anything, they wanted to win the war. And here was a leader telling them they could, even though the cost would be great.

What are your people crying out for?

Are you listening?

Are you responding to their needs before presenting your own?


Improve your communication skills:

Join Ian Webster for this Pietermaritzburg and Midlands Chamber of Business workshop to learn more about effective communication.



Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

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