I have written here about honesty, and more particularly, about me being an honest person. It is part of my essence. It is who I am, almost like a personal brand. My brand promise, which is part of my underlying core values of integrity, authenticity and courage, is that I will always be honest. Without fail, and to the best of my ability.
But what I have recently realised is that people need to earn my honesty. Like trust, it is not something I should give away freely or without thought. I’m not saying that I should lie. That is not something I would endorse. But honesty requires courage, both from the teller and the listener. And not all people are brave enough for the truth. Not all people know what to do with the truth.
When you are honest, you put yourself on the line. But why put yourself on the line for people who would or could do you harm? I make an assumption based on my own values – and often incorrectly – that people are brave and authentic, and will act with integrity, courage and honour. That is not always the case, particularly in the workplace or in our personal relationships. Honesty is not an invincible armour, protecting the truth teller from barbs. Rather, it is the opposite. Honest people are easy targets.
Truth will set us free, we are told. However, the truths we tell are often bullets that less unscrupulous people use to finish us off. These people fire our words back at us, twist them for their own purposes, and imprison us with them. Mark Twain said: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything”. Of course, but this does not address the inherent risks of being honest. I am more of an Orwell kind of girl: telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
I would always urge honesty. But do so, knowing what the consequences are. Weigh the pros and cons carefully. And consider who should hear your truths, because once they are heard, they should not be ignored. First and foremost, honesty – both telling and hearing – requires courage.
While I was thinking about this post, I stumbled on a wonderful website aimed at disarming workplace bullies, backstabbers and manipulators. If you are suffering at the hands of a bully (and the stats are currently sitting at about one in four), I would urge you to visit KickBully. This site has excellent information, but more importantly, psychological tactics on how to deal with these vile creatures.
Did this post resonate with you?
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Part memoir, part analysis of workplace culture, I consider the world of work and the definition of career success. And anyone who has found themselves disillusioned about the progress of their career—and that’s a lot of us!—will relate to this book.
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