What would happen if lying were the norm? Spouses wouldn’t be able to trust one another; leaders wouldn’t be credible; and the news would be meaningless. Everything, and I mean everything, depends on honesty. That’s why it’s so critical to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The truth is . . . we can’t build relationships if we mistrust what friends say; we won’t follow leaders if we mistrust what they do; and we can’t make good decisions if we doubt the accuracy of the information that we receive. Absent truth, instead of taking action, we’d spend our time looking over other people’s shoulders, second-guessing their intent, and unraveling the facts from the falsehoods. The result is that trust is shattered, reputations are damaged, and suspicion rules the day.
So, why do people lie? The reasons are countless. People lie to make themselves look better, steal the credit, cover up poor performance, conceal mistakes, deflect the blame, protect their reputations, and deceive and manipulate people. Regardless of the motive, the ultimate results are the same. As someone once said, “The worst thing about being lied to is knowing you’re not worth the truth.”
The Truth Is Not What It Seems, But What It Is
Dishonesty comes in many shapes and sizes. Of course, some people lie in error, in which they wholeheartedly believe their words when they’re spoken. Others tell bold-faced lies, knowing full well that they’re being deceitful. And still other people tell white lies, hoping to protect someone (often themselves) from the truth. Yet even though some of these folks may be well intentioned, it’s all lying just the same. How do you identify a lie? As a general rule of thumb, if your ears hear one thing and your eyes see another, use your brain — because something is obviously wrong. Here are some common forms of dishonesty that masquerade as acceptable behavior:
Misrepresentation. Distorting facts to consciously mislead or create a false impression. Spinning the truth, presenting opinion as fact, and using revisionist thinking or euphemisms to masquerade the truth are all forms of misrepresentation.
Omission. Leaving out key information to intentionally deceive someone. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Half the truth is often a great lie.”
Fabrication. Deliberately inventing an untruth or spreading a falsehood such as gossip or a rumor.
Exaggeration. Stretching the truth to give a more favorable impression.
Denial. Refusing to acknowledge the truth or to accept responsibility for a mistake or falsehood that was made.
Lack of transparency. Withholding information knowing that full disclosure will have negative consequences.
Redirection. Deflecting blame to another person to prevent personal embarrassment or responsibility.
False recognition. Stealing the credit for someone else’s hard-earned success.
Broken promise. Making a promise with no intention of keeping it.
Cover-up. Protecting the misdeeds of others. Those who provide cover for the misdeeds of others are as guilty as those who perpetrate the “crime.”
Hypocrisy. Saying one thing and consciously doing another. When words don’t match actions, someone is being dishonest with others or themselves.
Bait and switch. Attracting someone with an exciting offer only to divert them to an inferior deal.
Living a lie. Pretending that you are something you’re not.
Any way you cut it, when people distort the truth, they put their credibility at risk, while lowering their personal standards of honesty. Remember, BIG or small . . . a lie is a lie. Furthermore, a lie repeated many times doesn’t change the truth. Additionally, one or many believers don’t determine the truth or untruth. There’s no excuse for dishonesty. None. As someone once said, “The truth doesn’t cost anything, but a lie could cost you everything.”
Honesty: Truth Be Told
The value of honesty cannot be overstated. Every time someone lies, alarm bells aren’t going to go off and that person’s nose isn’t going to get larger (like Pinocchio’s), but something definitely happens. The liar may suspect that the only reason the customer said, “yes” to his proposal, the only way she dodged the blame, and the only reason the recipient of the lie thought highly of him or her was due to the lie itself. The question remains: Even though they fooled someone else, how do liars feel about themselves? The obvious truth is that they thought they didn’t deserve the outcome or else they would have told the truth in the first place. They may explain away the lie by telling themselves that everybody does it or that the lie fell in a gray area. But I must ask you, is that any way to live your life?
When you stand for honesty, you believe in yourself and everything you represent. When you stand for honesty, everything you say carries the voice of credibility. But, when you’re dishonest, your soiled reputation will do the speaking for you.
There are several things you can do to demonstrate honesty:
- Think before you speak.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say.
- Bend over backward to communicate in an open and honest fashion.
- Simplify your statements so that everyone clearly understands your message.
- Tell it like it is, rather than sugarcoating it.
- Present both sides of each issue to engender objectivity.
- If you have a personal bias or a conflict of interest, make it known.
- Tell people the rationale behind your decisions so that your intent is understood.
- If something is misinterpreted, quickly correct the record.
- Don’t shoot the messenger when someone tells you the truth. Thank them for their honesty and treat the information provided as a gift.
- Willingly accept responsibility by admitting a mistake or an error in judgment — in a timely fashion.
- Hold people accountable when their words do not match their actions.
- Never compromise your integrity and reputation by associating yourself with people whose standards of integrity you mistrust.
The truth shouldn’t be told only when it’s convenient. Honesty must be a way of life. Honesty means that you care deeply about trust, cherish your relationships, and value the importance of a solid reputation. Honesty means that you try to do your best and are willing to accept the consequences of your actions. Honesty means that you respect others enough to tell them the truth and that you value your opinion of yourself enough to never live a lie. As the saying goes, “It’s simple. Never lie to someone who trusts you, and never trust someone who lies to you.” That’s why it’s critical to always tell the truth — or the truth will tell on you. Honest.
Tell Me the Truth. What Do You Think About Honesty?
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Posted on Filed Under: Blog, Leadership, Self-help, Trust and Integrity Image licensed from Shutterstock
Almost everyone has been hurt at some point because of a secret, a distorted truth, a lie, and/or the discovery of something that should have been talked about openly. Dishonesty hurts because it undermines the relationship, breaks trust and is the opposite of intimacy. That means that instead of feeling secure in the fact that you know the other person and are known by them in turn, you now have doubts about them and no longer feel totally safe in the relationship.
Being honest isn't always easy, otherwise we'd all do it all the time, but there are five main reasons why honesty is important:
1) Without honesty there is no foundation for a lasting or enjoyable relationship in any context, whether that be with a family member, friend or romantic interest. Honesty is a voice for love that builds trust. Without it, even 'I love you' becomes a lie in itself and there's no real security in the relationship.
2) People can't read your mind. Being honest doesn't just mean telling the truth about factual information, but also about the way you're feeling. If you were hurt by something someone did, they may not even realise unless you are honest with them about how it affected you. If instead you hide the way you feel, then you disempower the other person from doing something about the problem and refuse the relationship the opportunity to grow. They may also feel hurt if they realise you were upset with them but said nothing, or if they know you're not being honest with them about the way you feel. All of this festers and damages the relationship, while on the other hand, being honest about your feelings can bring healing, solve a problem, renew hope and foster good communication.
3) When people don't know the truth, they will try and guess it. That is, not being honest about something causes people to try and figure out what you're not saying, or what the truth actually is. This breeds gossip, which can then foster more lies and deception that other people may mistake as truth. Finally, this causes many more people to feel hurt and betrayed when the truth is finally revealed, all of which could be avoided if honesty was applied in the first instance.
4) People are usually more hurt by the concealment of the truth than by the truth itself. Some people lie because they're afraid the truth will get them in trouble or cause another pain, but more often than not, while the truth may be painful, it is still usually less painful when delivered honestly than when it is wrapped in deception. Holding back on it or lying to cover it only causes people to feel betrayed as well as hurt, and to then question why you weren't just honest with them in the first place.
5) Being honest improves the relationship and saves us from having to live a lie. Lies rarely come on their own: one will usually be needed to cover another until it spirals out of control. This becomes complicated for the one who started it and confusing for the one receiving it. More than that, living a lie is hard work. It means not being yourself or enjoying relationships, and that is not comfortable for anyone. On the other hand, while being honest about difficult situations may be uncomfortable at first, if it can be worked through, the relationship is strengthened, trust is built and love is deepened.
The best relationships are the ones with honesty. It may mean difficult talks and awkward confrontations, but being honest also means better relationships with others and with yourself.
Check out Trudy Adams' new book, The Sunshine List.
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