At @HappyOps we have been talking about the importance of honesty in our communications. It sounds like such a simple idea until you begin to think about the daily situations we find ourselves in with friends and family, or while at work. In those situations we might find that actually we tell half the story that isn’t quite right. This article provides some examples of where we might tell innocent “white lies” to oil the wheels of social convention, but we aren’t being 100% honest.
10 Virtuous Actions
The importance of being honest is captured in the 10 Virtuous Actions:
4. No lying or holding back the truth. Always tell the truth.
We talk about the 10 Virtuous Actions in this article:
Let’s talk through a few murky situations that we have talked about at @HappyOps:
1. Business contract negotiations and interactions with work colleagues need to be completely honest. Contracts are legally binding and co-workers need to know that they can trust our word. It might seem murky when we give an opinion based on “business acumen” or “gut feel” – as long as we qualify the statement then we are being honest. One murky distinction is where we might withhold information for a period of time to let things play out – it seems reasonable that we want to be confident about a situation before communicating the problem. A second murkier distinction is where we do not want to “throw somebody under the bus” and place somebody at fault for a bad situation. In this case it might seem reasonable to have a compassionate motivation for our work colleague and we do not want them to be singled out from the team to face punishment.
2. In social conventions, we might make say things that are socially acceptable but not reflective the reality. We might say that we are doing an activity for a socially acceptable reason, but if my flatmate is really in my room to retrieve something then why do they have such a regretful look on their face? We might say that we are not talking about a friend behind their back, but why did the conversation suddenly go quiet?
3. Kids are a difficult example. Sometimes we might lie to kids be because we would prefer to avoid a difficult situation. For example, we might lie to avoid eating pizza for the third dinner in a row. Maybe an honest answer would be difficult and create tension, but we would avoid unnecessarily lying to our children.
It is reasonable to withhold a lot of the realities of the adult world away from kids. For one parent currently going through a divorce we gave them to never discuss the following with their kid:
- Never criticize or speak badly of your ex-partner or their partners in front of the child, even if those adults have behaved badly.
- Never have adult conversations in front of your kid, such as the division of assets or about money in general.
- Never use your kid to deliver messages to your ex-partner. Communicate with your ex-partner yourself.
The important thing is this: try your best to be honest every day. Sometimes we not be completely honest because we have compassion for our coworkers or we are protecting our kids. Just thinking more about the words we say can lead to positive insight because we must think about the reality of a situation.