Honesty IS always the best policy.
I have seen more damage done in organizations and families by people saying what they think the other person wants to hear rather than by people telling each other 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 reality, we avoid the discomfort and awkwardness that comes from 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
The problem with not being truthful is that it often comes back to hurt you. This usually happens in several ways:
- You slip up and the truth leaks out anyway making you look like a hypocrite
- 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
- You knowingly watch others suffer the consequences of bad decisions or actions and end up resenting them for it
- Your bond with the other person withers rather than strengthens over time as the secret forms a chasm between the two of you
- You suffer the collateral damage and inner turmoil of being disingenuous
We have all heard the old adage that “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember what you’ve said.” I have 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 will eventually notice 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 am not advocating that 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 speaking. After all, most of your comments are formed based on opinions not facts, and opinions can be wrong. There are some things that are better left unsaid.
However, when another person seeks your advice and counsel, be honest with them. Don’t feign support for ideas or decisions you don’t believe in. When you are asked direct questions, give truthful answers. You owe that to the others in your life, and to yourself. Being honest may cause some bumps in the road along the way, but over the long term, the journey will be much easier to navigate.