Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom – Thomas Jefferson
I have been working on the first edition of our radio program (Business Matters – launches May 1 more later) titled, “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. It is an exploration of the changing standards for ethics in business and the impact these changes are having on our world.
As I was talking with one of our guests, I was wondering about the notion of honesty. If you are like me, I talk about honesty as if I know exactly what it is. What I am recognizing is that honesty is not a simple thing. In the past, what I would say about honesty is that it means that I don’t intentionally deceive someone.
That’s not a bad definition, right. Well, as I am finding, there is more to it than that. For instance, what about when I lie and don’t realize that I am lying. Let me give you an example. A colleague at work asks you what you think of an outfit they are wearing. Now you inner dialogue is, “that really doesn’t look attractive”. Yet your find that the words that flow from your mouth are, “that looks nice.”
To make this point even more clear, let’s look at an even more prevalent example. You are having a day when things are just not going well. You meet someone you know in the hall of your office and they ask you, “How are you doing?” Your automatic response is, “Great” or whatever your automatic response is. I have done this a million times. More recently I have been watching when I do this and wondering why I respond with an answer that is so clearly not true.
I have some ideas about what happens. I believe that I have some beliefs that are so ingrained that I don’t even know I have them (I will explore the whole idea of how beliefs share our experiences, perspectives and actions periodically in this BLOG). For instance, in the case of the automatic response to the question of how I am feeling. Somewhere along the way, I acquired the belief that I was to portray a positive outlook about life to others. This belief is so ingrained that I don’t really even hear the question of how I am feeling before my programming (this is what happens when I adhere to a believe for such a long time that my reactions are automatic) kicks in without any thinking and out spills the response.
What’s the impact of this type of automatic response? For one thing, it creates a level of distrust with others. They often know that what I am saying isn’t so, like when I say I am feeling great when I am not. More than likely they will have a story about what it means and that will be part of the composite of who they believe I am.
What can I do about these automatic responses that impact my honesty? The first step is realizing that I do this. Because I am now aware of these responses, I can start to change my responses. Since this is a part of my nature, it may take some time for this to happen.
I know that when I do this, it can have a big impact on my relationships with others. A short anecdote to illustrate how to shift an automatic response. I used to have a habit where when someone would ask me a question that I was not clear of my response, I would pause and roll my eyes upwards. I was completely unaware of this response. Many people who I worked with would interpret this automatic response as either a put down of them or that I was not really interested in what they had to say or a myriad of other interpretations – none of with were what I was thinking.
Once I became aware of this behavior, I sought help from my colleagues. I asked them to let me know when this was happening so that I could be aware of it in “real time”. This support helped me consciously shift my behavior so that after six months or so, I no longer had this habit.
My encouragement to you is to look for your automatic habits that impact your creditability with others. You can find those by being observant. When others respond to you in ways that don’t make sense based upon the current circumstances, often they are responding to something you say or do that you don’t realize is going on.
I know it takes courage to ask others for help in these situations. I have found others to be very open to help since they can often recognize some of these traits in themselves.
Let me know what you experiences are…