Getting Past Fake Talk At Work

Fake talk diminishes relationships, slows work down, and jeopardizes results. At yet, the B.S. factor is alive and well in corporate America. We need more straight talk about fake talk.

Fake talk is attractive as an easy way out. But when fake talk’s the norm, the real game becomes guessing what’s really happening or what people mean.

Overcoming Fake Talk

This week, I spoke with Overcoming Fake Talk author, John Stoker about the dangers of Fake Talk:

“Fake Talk can be defined as any time a person intentionally misrepresents the truth, is unintentionally vague or unclear, when people go along to be agreeable or not rock the boat, and when people are focused on being politically correct rather than discuss and understand the finer nuances of what is going on. When people engage in these types of behavior, then performance is not improved, work is often redundant or inefficient, accountability is lacking, and the bottom line ultimately suffers.”

He shared a story that seems crazy, but sadly not surprising.

“Years ago I was hired to do a culture assessment for a CEO and his team of VPs. After I had interviewed all of the vice presidents and identified what was not working, I met with the CEO and his senior team to give them feedback. I was barely five minutes into the presentation when the CEO stopped me and said, “We really don’t talk negative about our company. I have to ask you to stop.”

I responded, “I’m not talking negative, I’m going to tell you the reality of what is working here and what is not working, with the intent of improving your processes and getting results.” All of the vice presidents in the room were uncomfortable and looked down.

overcoming fake talkI continued, “If you can’t talk about what’s not working, then how can we ever identify what it is that we need to improve here?” Fortunately, he let me continue. I would venture to say that this was the first real conversation this team had conducted in a very long time.

Individuals in corporate America, be they leaders or managers, who are not willing to talk about the real issues and take steps to improve what it is that they are trying to achieve cannot really hope to achieve anything different. Progress simply cannot happen in a vacuum.”

So how does our LGL community discourage fake talk? I asked John his thoughts on how to develop and encourage leaders to hold real conversations. His advice, “help them prepare.” When we deal with tough conversations in the moment, our survival and protection instincts kick in. 

Even if we know intellectually that we want to tell the truth, it’s tough to think straight in the heat of the moment. Prepare for what you need to say, and anticipate potential reactions. His book offers a four quadrant model on how to prepare.

Planning For Real Conversations

Prepare – What outcome would you like to see? What could you do?

Connect – Consider What do YOU want? What do THEY want?

Initiate – Attention check: I’d like to talk about.

Data – I noticed.

Interpretation – I’m wondering if

Discover – What questions should you ask? What answers do you need?