During my life I have generally been honest and had pretty good integrity. But that was not a good thing. To the contrary, it was not good at all. What did “generally” mean? Something over 50% but well under 100%. That meant there were serious questions surrounding my honesty and integrity at any given moment.
About 12 or so years ago I decided I really needed to change that. First and foremost, it was not good enough to pick and chose those honest moments, cherry pick them. It has taken a lot of practice and I cannot say I enjoy 100% success, but I can say that I probably am around 99% successful. And for those times I find myself wanting, I make a concerted effort to fix my shortcomings.
One of the most common excuses I have heard, and have used myself, is that complete honesty, in certain circumstances will hurt someone’s feelings. Realizing this might happen there were several things I might do. I might say nothing at all to the person. I might tell only part of the truth. Or I might tell that “little white lie.” What is a “white lie?” I really have no idea. It is still a lie. That is no longer acceptable in any situation. Almost as bad is holding back the entire truth. That too it tantamount to lying. It is a lie of omission. All this to save a person’s feelings? I do not remember being told that I am responsible for anyone’s feelings!
This does not mean I should act callously. It also does not mean I should hit the person over the head with the truth. My part in all of it is to relate the truth, unedited, and candidly. I have to take the chance that the person’s feelings may be hurt and I may well incur their wrath. That is not my responsibility. At the end of the day I am accountable for each and every one of my actions. Tactful honesty is always better than any alternative. I have found that people always get over hurt feelings and generally have more respect for me once the dust settles. If they decide they want nothing more to do with me, I will know it was not because of my being dishonest, duplicitous, or self-serving.
With honesty comes integrity. My integrity means that people can count on me to keep my word. They can count on me to be there when I say I will. They know I will give a full effort in doing whatever it is that is needed. And they know that I will admit to my failures and shortcomings along the way. Dealing with failure was another thing I found has really only one acceptable action. I hate failing but when I do, I have absolutely no problem with saying I have failed.
Another part of honesty and integrity is my ability to say “I do not know.” People ask questions I do not know the answer to, I admit to that. If further action is required, I will look to fill my void of knowledge. If not, I do nothing.
There is always someone who is looking to put me down. When they say hurtful or dishonest things to me I have two responses I use. The first is to simply agree with them. If someone says that I am dumb, I will agree with them leaving them with nowhere to go. If they say something that is truly bad, I will ask them why they feel that way. But I will do nothing more than those two things to defend myself against personal attacks. Such people are looking for a fight, and if I choose not to accept their challenge, what are they left with?
All the above things are the tools I use for success in my personal and professional life. People know they can count on my honesty and integrity. Even though I am not 100% successful it still means they can trust me and respect me. Trust and respect are things that are earned, not demanded.