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“What Is Truth?” Interview with Dr Loretta Chen

Today we have the huge privilege of having Dr Loretta Chen with us! Currently based in Honolulu, Dr Loretta Chen is a Singaporean creative director, media personality, professor and bestselling author of Woman on Top: The Art of Smashing Stereotypes and Breaking All the Rules, The Elim Chew Story: Driven by Purpose, Destined for Change and Madonnas and Mavericks: Power Women in Singapore.

We hope you enjoy our feature with her today!


Wan Wei: Hello Dr Loretta Chen! Can you tell us more about yourself and what you are doing?

Dr Loretta Chen: I guess you can call me a self-professed multi-hyphenate. I used to run a creative agency with offices around Asia and helmed campaigns for international, luxury brands as well as direct theatrical productions. I was also the International Consultant to DHI, the government investment arm of the Kingdom of Bhutan; headlined my own radio show called The Art of Lush with Loretta Chen and briefly worked for automobile company, Tesla.

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I also just published Madonnas and Mavericks: Power Women in Singapore featuring the President of Singapore, Ambassador to USA and Mexico, head honchos, leading artists and athletes.

I have chosen to take “early retirement”, wind down, uproot and move to Hawaii for a slice of paradise, my love for nature and my enchantment with aloha. These days, I delight in my role as a professor in leadership and theater, mentoring my doctoral candidates; up and coming thespians as well as C suites that need help in motivational techniques and presentation skills. I also write books and am working on my fourth tentatively called Mana Wahine: Power Women in Hawaii. I will then work on my next book with a Singaporean publisher scheduled for 2019. Perhaps I am on my way to being the Woody Allen of books, with one offering every year!


Wan Wei: How would you define “the truth”? Is there a truth, or is everything subjective? How do you tell?

Dr Loretta Chen: For purpose of discussion we are making a distinction between fact and truth. The former being logic itself independent of reasoning while the latter depends on one’s perspective.

I would like to think and have to believe that there is a basic, fundamental truth underlying most things otherwise there is no basis for morality.

But what we often encounter on a day-to-day basis is a crisis of the “truth” or a subjective version of the truth as people all come with different histories, experiences that enable different interpretations of the facts that then become their version(s) of the truth. Sometimes the truth is plain to see; other times it needs greater research and super sleuthing which can yield results.

At times when it is excruciatingly hard to glean at the “truth”, I then look into myself, do my own personal soul-searching and reflection to derive at my best response to a particular crisis of truth.


Wan Wei: What are the three ways you can tell the truth to someone without being offensive?

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Dr Loretta Chen: As an academic and a person, I practice my three Ps.

I further define as the 3 Ps – Positionality, Perspective and Personal Self Reflexivity.

  • Positionality refers to the ability to know where one is located mentally, emotionally, intellectually and to understand our own beliefs, values, assumptions, biases, preferences.
  • Perspective refers to the context, which may influence what a person sees and how they interpret it.
  • Personal self-reflexivity refers to an explicit self-consciousness about one’s social, political and value positions and how these might have influence one’s interpretation. People who are self-reflexive also tend to be able to laugh at themselves and have a greater sense of humor.

By practicing my 3Ps, I can tell the truth to someone without being offensive.

So for instance, I will tell someone that we will have to agree to disagree as I have my own positionality that s/he cannot contend with as that is wholly my position, I also am entitled to my own perspective which again the other person cannot lay claim to.

And I am also always able to laugh good naturedly which is always a great way to diffuse any residual tension that comes from disagreeing on the “truth”.


Wan Wei: What are the three ways a person can accept the truth without being offended?

Dr Loretta Chen: As above, which is why I try to engage and share my 3Ps as often as I can whether in TED talks, school forums or corporate engagements.

If the recipient is also aware and practices the 3Ps, s/he will be able to engage in a discussion and share differences of opinions and truth in your case.

And not descend into furious, diabolical, destructive debate or worse yet, unnecessary name-calling, belittlement and character assassination.


Wan Wei: On a parting note, can you give us a painless tip to check if a person is not lying to himself/herself?

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Dr Loretta Chen: Watch what they do, not what they say.

Cliché as it may be, actions speak louder than words and observe them over long periods of time. Strength of character bears the test of time.

We hope you have enjoyed today’s feature with Dr Loretta Chen! Visit her website here.

Photos credits: Dr Loretta Chen/ Samuel Isaac Chua/ Men With Lens

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