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Daily Leadership Thought #143 – Honesty Shouldn’t Be Optional

I’ve seen more damage done in organizations and families by people saying what they think the other person wants to hear rather than telling them the truth.  The whole concept of “white lies” has become commonplace and most people go through life telling them on a daily basis. Instead of dealing with realty (or at least our version of it) we prefer to not to risk the discomfort and awkwardness of being honest.  You see it everywhere: parents praising kids for mediocrity or even worse failure; family members supporting decisions they disagree with; friends saying something is okay when it really is not; employees pretending to buy-in to ideas they don’t agree with; bosses espousing confidence in strategies they are unsure of, etc.

The problem with not being truthful is that it often comes back to haunt you.  This usually happens in several ways: 1) you slip up and the truth leaks out anyway making you look like a hypocrite; 2) you try and bottle your true feelings up inside which never works long term and ultimately ends up with a blow up at an inopportune time (and usually the result of an unrelated issue); 3) you knowingly watch others suffer the consequences of bad decisions/actions and end up resenting them for it; 4) your bond with the other person withers rather than strengthens over time as the secret forms a chasm between the two of you; and 5) you suffer the collateral damage and inner turmoil of being disingenuous.

We’ve all heard the old adage that “if you tell the truth you don’t have to remember what you’ve said.” I’ve found this to be true in my own experience.  It can be quite embarrassing to be caught in a lie.  In addition, the problem with any behavior is that it can become a habit if you are not careful.  If you become comfortable with not being truthful, people eventually pick up on it and stop believing what you have to say.   You run the risk of being perceived as a superficial person lacking depth and integrity.

I’m not advocating you go out of your way to hurt other people’s feelings or use honesty as a license to be mean-spirited.  You should always check your true intentions before providing feedback.  After all, most of your comments are formed on the basis of opinions not facts and opinions can be wrong.  Some things are better left unsaid.  However, when another person seeks your advice and counsel be honest with them.  Just make sure you confirm with them that this is what they want.  Don’t feign support for ideas/decisions you don’t believe in.  When you are asked a direct question give a truthful (and always respectful) answer.  You owe that to your fellow human beings and yourself.   Being honest may cause bumps in the ride of life at times, but long term the journey will be much easier to navigate.


3 Responses

  1. […] see: Daily Leadership Thought #143 – Honesty Shouldn’t Be Optional « Ed Robinson’s Blog edrobinson.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/daily-leaders… 41.052849 -83.679720 Tagged: Christianity, Religion and Spirituality, truth, Truth Definitions […]

  2. good one. reality is, most folks do not want to hear the real truth …imho….take care..

  3. […] Daily Leadership Thought #143 – Honesty Shouldn’t Be Optional (edrobinson.wordpress.com) […]

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