Truth Tears: The Joy of Knowing Deeply

By Robert E. Quinn

A woman came to see me. She had been reading my book Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within. She talked about how the book spoke to her soul. I listened and asked questions. She told me how hard she had struggled to find her professional identity. She had changed majors several times as an undergraduate. As a professional, she has shifted her focus several times. This has led to deep introspection.

In recent times she has found great meaning in the field of organizational development. When she read Deep Change, everything started to come together in a new way. She referenced one particular passage that she had read over and over; t’s about facing our own hypocrisy, making self-change, and finding the power to make a difference in the world (If you’d like to read it, turn to pages 78 through 79).

As she spoke of this passage, her eyes filled with tears. She started to apologize. Then she said something shocking: “I bet a lot of people cry in this office.”

I was shocked because she was right. I sometimes joke that somewhere in the business school where I teach, there is a sign: “If you want to cry, go to Quinn’s office.”

In my office there are a lot of conversations that include tears. There are different kinds of tears. I told this woman that her tears were “truth tears.”

Truth tears are a very important. We cry truth tears when we enter an alternative state of knowing. Sometimes we speak of “knowing deeply.” Actually, what is  happening is that we are learning deeply.

Superficial knowing is normal knowing. It is the knowing that occurs when I ask someone which way to turn and he points me in the right direction. It is the logical exchange of information.

When we enter the state of learning deeply, we change. We enter the state of truth. We generally think of truth as something that coincides with fact, not as a state of being. But when we are learning deeply as a state of being, we are focused on something vital to us. We are fully focused and we are stretching to understand more. We risk saying things we really mean. We speak with greater authenticity.

When we speak this way, our connections change. When we hear ourselves saying what we really believe, we become more aware of who we really are. We see the other person paying deep attention, and we recognize that sincere attention is an act of caring. We feel loved. We also sense that we are learning profound things. We know learning is amplified in such a relationship. As we interact within this context, we are co-creating profound understanding. We experience the joy of knowing deeply.