We used to play “Truth or Dare” in high school. Truth was pretty easy because you could… lie. Dare was tougher to get out of. Typically though Truth was your chance to show that you were adventurous, maybe even a little dangerous, basically you were cool. Or you could pretend to be cool aka lie.
Elections always remind me of the power of integrity, of truth. I would say, if asked, people typically say they are truthful, they have integrity. I say that’s a lie. Recent polls show that 85% of people believe they don’t lie (yes, I made that up, polls make me crazy). We lie to ourselves and others constantly, it’s just easier and there’s a certain amount of etiquette involved. “How are you?” “Fine” instead of “I slept like crap, I’m bloated, my head is killing me, the house is a pig sty and I have no energy to clean it.” No one would ever speak to you again. “Fine” is the sensible thing to say.
There are the day to day lies. The lies we tell ourselves. I’m just a little overweight (more cake please), we don’t have that much debt (I’ll take both pairs), the kids are great (she’s just spacey, she would never take drugs), I love my job (what else can I do), I like a little wine with dinner (just one small bottle).
And then there are the lies that keep on getting bigger. The ones that once they get rolling take on a life of their own because you don’t know how to get out of them or you begin to believe them yourself. You’ve found a way to justify your behavior. Some major examples, Watergate, Bernie Maddoff, Enron (who from the 80’s ever though Arthur Andersen would go under), Worldcom, there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”. Those are the ones everyone talks about or did talk about. It’s so easy to wag our judgmental finger when the spotlight isn’t on us.
I remember in the late 80’s, I was a new MBA that had recently been promoted to manager of my department. One of my good friends that I respected (a director at the time) said “Eve, you have to learn to lie without turning red.” Oh, can I put THAT skill on my resume? The truth was that we learned to, perhaps not so much lie, but we learned to “spin”. Spinning is something you certainly learn as a consultant. It’s the only way to stay afloat or is it? “The project is on time and under budget, the company has a solid strategy to make money going forward, we can complete the project in 4 weeks with the right amount of buy-in from the stakeholders” (always give yourself a way out if things start going south). Perhaps this is one reason the economy has tanked…
Real integrity is not easy. It takes commitment, it takes passion and most of all it takes courage. It takes the courage to let people know what you really think but from a place of compassion and caring. Not anger or jealousy. It’s easy to discuss but not so easy to implement.
So why bother. Why bother to tell the truth when so many seem to lie. Why bother when lying can certainly make your life easier at times. Why bother? Because it’s the right thing to do in the long run.
When people see you as someone that tells the truth and therefore takes responsibility, they respect you, they trust you. You can trust yourself and you can be proud of yourself. You can sleep at night. It’s not always easy but I feel it’s worth it. I’m working on it. More to come….
As Tommy Flanagan, Jon Lovitz’ pathological liar character on SNL would say “yeah, that’s the ticket!” Let me know what you think, truthfully.