Part 8 in a series on professionalism.
Criteria 8: Honest: Communicates openly, has no hidden agenda.
Years ago a wise mentor advised me, “Be honest and tell the truth, and you’ll never have to remember any untruths you have told people. The more you spin a web of lies, the more it will entangle you.” That was solid advice.
In my workshops, I ask participants to list their top three to five core values. I also ask them to consider how they live those values each day and how they communicate them to others. Invariably, a few people in the group will identify honesty as a top core value. When your behavior is aligned with your core values, you are presenting your most authentic self. When they are out of alignment, you present yourself as someone who is not true to the self.
There is much to consider when speaking honestly. You can either be honest or brutally honest. An honest person chooses words carefully, speaks with grace and kindness and considers the culture, environment or another person’s feelings. A brutally honest person doesn’t care about words or feelings; the goal is to tell it like it is.
There are different requests made of honesty.
Honest Opinion: What do you do when someone asks for your honest opinion? Since an opinion is subjective, speak to any level of opinion that makes you – and the other person – feel comfortable. Then it’s a win/win.
“Do these pants make me look fat?”
Response: “In my opinion, they accentuate your curves.” (The brutally honest person would say, “Yes, they make you look fat because you are fat!”)
Be Honest: “Be honest with me. Am I qualified for that job?”
Response: “Let’s review the position description and compare it to your qualifications. Then we’ll look at all of the facts and discuss anything else that either you or I know about the position.” (The brutally honest person would say something like, “Are you crazy? What makes you think you’re qualified for that job? No, I absolutely don’t think you’re qualified.”)
Straight Talk: “Give it to me straight. Don’t mince words. I can take it.”
Response: “What are you most interested in? What specifically would you like me to share?” You have to decide if the person really can take it, and how much. (The brutally honest person never needs permission to give anyone straight talk; it comes with the territory.)
Being honest requires some courage, especially when discussing controversial or delicate topics. One contemporary figure who is refreshingly honest is Pope Francis. When sharing his thoughts, ideas and opinions honestly, they come from a place of grace and integrity.
What would greater honesty bring to your work relationships? Your personal relationships?