The Non-Denial Denial

In the darkest moments of Watergate, with the White House engaged in full frontal attack, Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post kept Woodward and Bernstein’s investigation moving forward by focusing on the substance of the administration’s response.

Loud. Confident. Assertive.

Filled with reasons about why the accusations couldn’t be true.

But absent any evidence that they weren’t.

Bradlee came to describe them as non-denial denials.

Politics has used Watergate as a new benchmark. Anything above breaking-in is acceptable. Anything below, we can talk about.

Which is fine, because we’ve become more cynical consumers of politics. And why when a politician gives even a reasonably straightforward answer we greet them as champions of change.

But in our own lives, personally and professionally, the non-denial denial has become a destructive impulse to which we all succumb.

In the last few months I have been increasingly aware of the determination with which we paint reality to suit our own narrative.

We don’t deny that things are tough. We simply tell ourselves that somehow it will all come right. That the future will take care of it. That we’ll worry about it later. The current benchmark is after Christmas.

I have had five conversations recently with smart, self-aware, successful people whom I admire greatly. Some work for companies. Some own them.

In every case I have come away stunned by the paper-thin reality to which they are clinging. And their artful articulation of why the evidence they themselves present does not in fact draw the conclusion I suggest.

The do not deny the evidence. They do not say I am missing something in my analysis. They just say it isn’t that way.

A non-denial denial.

The truth is hard. But denying it is ultimately much more costly. And finding it is free.

It requires three things.

Someone you trust.
A willingness to ask hard questions
A willingness to answer them honestly

It doesn’t matter what title they go by. Friend. Relative. Consultant. Coach.

But there is no one I know who doesn’t need to go through this process.

Including us.

Which is why we just hired a consultant.

Because the future is coming and I for one want to meet it on my terms.

The facts. The truth.

Powerful platforms on which to build a better business.