Message from RG: Merry Christmas, everyone! I’m lounging under a palm tree on a much-needed vacation for a few weeks. So to fill your insatiable need for brilliant and helpful self-development info each morning, I’ve asked some of my clever friends to sit in for me during my absence. Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Joachim de Posada:
Does honesty really pay? It’s an interesting question. And if it does, why are so many people dishonest?
There is a very funny story going around about the honesty of a kid in an incident with a teacher. This is how it is told:
Our teacher asked what my favorite animal was, and I said, "fried chicken."
She said I wasn't funny, but she couldn't have been right, because everyone else laughed.
My parents told me to always tell the truth. I did. Fried chicken is my favorite animal. I told my dad what happened, and he said my teacher was probably a member of PETA. He said they love animals very much.
I do, too. Especially chicken, pork and beef. Anyway, my teacher sent me to the principal's office. I told him what happened, and he laughed, too. Then he told me not to do it again.
The next day in class my teacher asked me what my favorite live animal was. I told her it was chicken. She asked me why, so I told her it was because you could make them into fried chicken.
She sent me back to the principal's office. He laughed, and told me not to do it again.
I don't understand. My parents taught me to be honest, but my teacher doesn't like it when I am.
Today, my teacher asked me to tell her what famous person I admired most. I told her, "Colonel Sanders."
Guess where I am now...
Even though this is a very funny story, I think there is a strong message behind it. The fact of the matter is that sometimes people get in trouble for being honest. In fact, being totally honest could be detrimental to your personal and professional life.
Honesty, you always hear, is the best policy. Even so, it will not catch you by surprise that in reality dishonesty probably rules your life.
Salespeople lie about their products or services just to make a sale. They rationalize that what is important is to make the sale because that way you will be able to feed your family and if you told the whole truth about the product or service, you might not sell it.
Husbands and wives (depending who cooks) lie about whether they loved dinner even though it really wasn’t that good. But why fight over it, what will you gain if you do? Maybe he or she won’t want to cook again for you.
Employees lie about the reason a task assigned is not yet completed or how many calls were received on account of the advertisement they placed on the local newspaper.
Customer service people lie about warranties, extended warranties, reliability of the product and anything else related to it.
What about politicians? How can both be telling the truth when what they are saying is exactly the opposite? One of them must be lying or maybe even both.
In survey after survey about leadership, honesty comes out on top or close to the top on qualities that a leader should possess.
Yet, leaders, managers, supervisors and employees lie all the time. We all believe that “a little white lie” is not so bad and makes life easier to cope with.
Why have fights with your spouse over a dress when it is so much easier to just say “darling, you look wonderful”?
Why make your neighbor feel horrible over their new car purchase when you tell him how badly that car scored in Consumer Report magazine evaluations of cars?
My dear readers, it is hard to be totally honest. And yet, we must all consider if we let ourselves get used to saying things that are “socially accepted” or convenient rather than true, that we lose sight of the truth in important areas of our lives.
I wonder if we are also losing a little bit of our integrity, our values and who we really are.
What is honesty anyway?
When you describe honesty, it is fairly simple: truthfulness, sincerity or frankness. Freedom from deceit or fraud. Basically it is what you believe from your own individual perspective.
This is easy enough to understand when you are stating facts: “the moon is smaller than the earth” is either true or false. Honesty means saying the true thing. It gets more complicated when you are expressing an opinion: chocolate is delicious is not true or false in an absolute sense; it is only true in relation to the taste of the person saying it.
In this case, honesty means declaring your opinion even though for someone else, it is completely false.
Beyond the dictionary meaning of what the word itself means, there is a way that you can act out honesty in the real world. Honesty is in reality, a characteristic of an act, behavior or personality. It is the difference between making an honest living or not. A gang member might not tell a single lie in 24 hours but we wouldn’t think that he or she is an “honest” person.
The bottom line is that honesty is about trust. With your behavior and example, convincing others that you are to be trusted, that your word means something, that others are able to deal with the truth as you tell it.
There are situations that might lead us to be dishonest although not necessarily:
We are afraid of being punished for something we did.
We are afraid of hurting another person’s feelings.
We don’t want someone we love to think badly of us.
We are protecting another person
We don’t want someone to do better than us.
We need to need to protect ourselves.
We are protecting another person’s image of ourselves.
We dislike another person.
These reasons are vague, I know, and they may possibly overlap depending on the situation, but my point is to demonstrate that more often than not, dishonesty is provoked by fear or danger.
So, the salesman lies because he fears losing a sale or making a smaller sale. The spouse lies because she is afraid of hurting his partner’s feelings, losing the partner himself or losing some of the benefits of the relationship. The employee lies because she is afraid of losing her job or being demoted.
The student lies because he is afraid of failing the class. The gang member lies because he is afraid of being sent to prison or provoking other gang members from other gangs or his own gang to get revenge. The Doctor lies because he is afraid of being sued or even losing his license to practice medicine.
The politician lies because he wants to make sure he is elected. He will make promises he knows he can’t possible keep. (The sad thing is that even so people vote for him. They just want to hear the promise.)
Think of all the times you might not have told the truth, or the whole truth. Think of all the times you have told “white lies.”
What were you afraid of?
How does it feel to live in fear? How does it feel to give in to it?
This is a difficult subject, only you can decide how best to handle it. I can say that honest people establish a reputation and good things happen to them.