Telling Comforting Lies Or Giving The Hard Truth. What Persuades Better?

Do you have a friend working a job she hates? What about a friend who sticks with a doomed relationship?

Do you tell the hard truths or comforting lies? Some lies comfort us. Sometimes we tell lies to comfort others.

“Your relationship still has a chance.” 

“You’re doing the responsible thing by sticking to your chosen career.”

Most of us both give and receive these comforting lies. They’re easy to spot when it comes to relationships, careers and personal issues. In business they hide beneath the surface.

Yesterday, I met with a client. This client signed up for a service. They needed more than what they signed up for. For the last few weeks I fed them comforting lies.

I told them as long as they possessed the skills, they could do the work themselves. They could save money and do without the extra service.

What I neglected to tell him was that he lacked the skill to do it. I wanted him to figure it out himself. Otherwise, it would come across as self-serving.

Why We Tell Comforting Lies

We tell comforting lies because it’s painful to give people bad news or we fear how they might react. We listen to comforting lies because it pains us to face bad news.

This forces us into a dilemma. One side avoids giving bad news. The other side refuses to recognize bad news.

How do we fix this?

As a persuasive writer, delivering bad news head on almost always fails.

It’s too easy to dismiss your conclusion and stick with the comfortable lie.

My client, ignorant that he lacked the necessary skills, finally came to the conclusion on his own.

We never argued with him. Instead, we talked about all the skills he needed to do the job. We acted as trusted advisers rather than parents teaching their kids a lesson.

“Since you’re doing this yourself, here’s a checklist we use to make sure we hit all the steps.”

He replied:

“I have a questions on some of these. Can we talk it out?” 

After discussing the various steps, the client realized the risk he faced in doing this himself. He lacked the skills and resources to do it right.

“It’s clear we failed to take some of this into consideration. We don’t have the skills in house to do all this stuff. What if we wanted to outsource this to you?”

Will we end up getting the additional business?

Maybe. Maybe not. At least we have a chance. Had we forced it down his throat, he would have rejected us.

The Real Secret To Persuasion

The client came to the conclusion all on his own. We simply led him down the path.

That’s the real secret to persuasion. Lead the other side to conclude that your desired result is what they want too.

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