It might sound ridiculous at first, but truth and fact actually have very little in common – and misunderstanding the difference can be disastrous in business and in life.
Case in point: Journalists are often criticised by people for using the line “so-and-so did not immediately respond to requests for comment”.
We do that to convey that we have attempted to make content with the relevant party to get their views on the issue, but were unable to reach them before the publishing deadline.
Now people in some industries consider an “immediate” response as being within 24 hours. In their industry, that may very well be the case. That is their truth.
In my industry (i.e. digital media), 24 hours is a lifetime, far from immediate. We need responses within hours – same-day delivery. That is our truth.
Others may have a different truth still.
But the FACT is that “immediate” means different things to different people, and in different contexts. This is why qualifying needs such as immediate, soon, “a bit” and so forth is so important, to ensure all parties understand the same thing.
In business, such a simple discrepancy can have a real impact on the bottom line.
As Andrew Wittman of the US-based Mental Toughness Training Center points out, the difference between truth and fact is accuracy.
“What truth is, is our perception of the facts,” the former marine and bodyguard turned professional educator told My Business.
As a former soldier on the battlefield and bodyguard to the likes of Hillary Clinton, the Isreali Prime Minister and a host of celebrities, Mr Whitton has been well-trained in the importance of accuracy and direct communication, given the life and death consequences.
He said the exact same approach applies in business too.
“Here’s an example that every business owner knows: you get the email from a customer that says ‘I need this ASAP’. Was it a big ASAP or a little ASAP? Is there a difference?
“ASAP is a truth. So I’m going to ask them: “When do you need this by?” Well, I need it by Friday, the 11th. Okay, that’s a fact, but that’s a big block of time. When on Friday? So, precision, I’ve got to drill down.
“When do you need it Friday? Oh, I need it by lunchtime. Is that a fact or a truth? That’d move it back into the truth column because ‘lunchtime’ is different for different people... what time zone are you in? When are you eating lunch? So you want to say ‘I need it by 12pm Australian Eastern time… So you drill all the way down. Now there’s no miscommunication at all.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.