I’ve been in several situations recently where I knew someone was going to lie to me. But, figuring that it’d be best to give them the benefit of the doubt, I gave them an opportunity to be honest; I asked straight up for the answer, and they lied anyways. Sometimes I’ve decided to press the issue (knowing it would catch them in the lie – you really don’t want to get on the other side of my information extractions) and, of course, I manipulated them into a confession and the gig was up. The ultimate rationale given once caught were lame excuses and passive-aggressive apologies and ‘it was insignificant’ – but that begs the question, why bother to lie at all then if it’s so trivial? (This is naturally a rhetorical question, because knowing that they were going to lie meant knowing WHY they were going to lie – which was a two-part ‘reason.’ First of all, they reduced me to an object of convenience, and as such, lying to me was a way to get what they want with no consideration for my needs or feelings – so, it was about them and their belief that using me was acceptable. Secondly, while they didn’t really respect me or my feelings, they just assumed that I wouldn’t like the truth, so they wanted to shield me from it. How noble. But if you’re doing something that you can’t be honest about, that you feel guilty about and/or have to hide but do anyways, then what kind of asshole are you when you go ahead and do it anyways? And so, again, it was about them.)
So, what’s the point I’m driving at? Well, in each instance, it eroded trust, as dishonesty is wont to do. Trust and respect are the key foundation of any relationship, and dishonesty is one side deciding to erode respect and trust while the other side is reduced to having those things taken from them. It creates an imbalance for the agenda of one at the expense of the other. Am I still friends with the people who lied to me? In most cases, no. Life’s too short to have crappy friends, or be with people who don’t respect/care for you enough to feel that you deserve dignity and are merely a commodity to be taken for granted. In the a few cases where I have restored the friendships, they are no longer trusted relationships, and therefore are strained. All it takes is one small lie – be it an omission of something known, a deliberate act of deceit, or just avoiding dealing something (pretending to spare someone else to really spare yourself) – to permanently ruin your reputation and how others see you. But yet, people lie all the time. They rationalize it and justify it. They want to act without consequences, and don’t appreciate what they have (then sit in regret, wondering why they were so foolish and afraid). But when you’ve demonstrated to someone that you don’t value them as a human being (by thinking it’s acceptable to lie to them), how are they supposed to take it or react? What good result could possibly come from it? And how can you ever establish a foundation on uneven ground, whether or not others know you’ve tilted the balance? Unfortunately, most people view artifice as necessary, as it lets them get what they want. But how long can you have a relationship that’s only about your needs, and not about what you offer in return? And if your friends aren’t special enough for you to be honest with them – what about your clients? If you can sabotage one level of interaction, is it indicative of how you treat/interact with everyone? What happens when you erode the trust of who you are (your ‘personal brand’) with your clients and prospects? Now of course there should be a measure of tact in your honesty, but if people see you as someone with nothing to hide, who is on the level and upfront with everything and genuine – real – you not only earn/build trust, but you provide a value that distinguishes you. It also shows that you ‘care about’ your clients/partners and their needs, and aren’t just thinking that relationship is a one-way street. Making others feel special is the best way to ensure that they want to do business (or pleasure) with you. Honestly expressing yourself to others goes a long way towards that end. That doesn’t mean you have to tell your clients everything; but it does mean that you’re not deliberately keeping things from them for your own selfish motives.
I’ve had the opportunity to refer business to those former ‘friends,’ to connect them with great opportunities, but I won’t – because it will tarnish my own image and identity. You never know when the bridges you burn will haunt you, but if you are honest, then you never have to worry about it.