For some, deceit is an easy way to avoid accountability or achieve an agenda. But for most of us, honesty continues to hold its place as one of the most respected pinnacles of human virtue. We recognize that truth is the virtual building block of trusting relationships. We see a world that seems to cry out for less deceit and more trust. Open, honest, direct communication is critical to our personal success and to the success of our organizations.
Honest expression of opinions will always enhance the quality of team decisions. Only through a clear and accurate understanding of our customers’ level of satisfaction can we improve service, retain clients and attract new business. We need truthful assessments of current performance in order to understand what changes are necessary for greater success. Jack Welch, the former CEO for General Electric, once said in an interview that we “do not help people by letting them believe they are doing better than they are.”
Understanding the need for truth makes it no less elusive. So why do we struggle? Why do we bend, “sugar coat” or temper the truth? Oddly enough, it gets back to trust. The relationship between truth and trust is interesting. We know that betrayal destroys trust. But it is also a lack of trust that causes us to be less than honest.
Sometimes the truth hurts. We don’t want to be blamed for the pain. We don’t trust that others will take our comments in the spirit they are intended. We’re not sure how people will react to what we say. This lack of trust may be the result of past experiences. However, it may be the result of our own anticipation of how we might react if the roles were reversed.
Perhaps it is time for a new commitment to honesty. Perhaps we need to look at both the delivery and the receipt. Perhaps we need to consider how we can build trusting relationships by offering critiques with respect and kindness while listening to them with understanding and a sincere desire to improve.
How we deliver the truth is critical. I like what Chuck Gallozzi said in his article There is no right way to do something wrong, "Did you ever notice that people who are brutally honest get more satisfaction from being brutal than from being honest?
While we continue to express the importance of being honest with others, we cannot lose sight of the importance of being able to accept the truth. Tom Landry once said that a coach is “someone who tells us what we don’t want to hear so we can be what we want to be.” The truth gives us the opportunity to learn, to grow, to correct, to adjust and to adapt.
In the final analysis, it comes down to us. We must develop the discipline to be honest with ourselves. "Illusions are an interesting aspect of life. Some are perpetrated upon us while others are created totally within us. Often, it's hard to tell the difference."