We all like to feel we are honest in our dealings with others and are often outraged when others behave in anything less than worthy manner. But I wonder how honest we actually are?
I sat and watched ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ with my daughter the other day, a film which if you are unfamiliar with, revolves around a day in the life of one family and what they refer to as mendacity. The film was made in the fifties so this is rather an old fashioned term but basically translated into modern language as dishonesty or lies.
A number of crises are brought to a head on this day and all paths lead to the same place, a lack of honesty about feelings and motives. How so often we role play behaviour we think will suit our needs, usually in the short term, and then get stuck in our behaviour and almost begin to believe the lie. So often we will excuse our own dishonesty as not wanting to upset or offend others but honestly, we know it gets us out of a tricky situation, and our silence makes the immediate issue easier to sweep away.
In Tennessee Williams’ usual brilliant way through the six main characters, he displays each of them in pretence, all with various motives. I doubt there is any viewer who would not associate with some behaviour from one of the characters.
So very often we are not even aware of our duplicity. It can begin with a belief that to tell another a real truth it would hurt them and damage a relationship. But how can any relationship truly deepen with anything less than the truth?
I often mull over my own motives of wanting to be more honest (or not) with others. I think it is always wise to consider one’s own part, Is this my ego talking? Do I just want to hit out because I am hurt? What are the potential repercussions of speaking our or staying silent? Once clear that your motives are sound it is a great deal easier, to be honest about how you feel. In telling another how much their behaviour has hurt, you are of course showing vulnerability, but such acts are the things that deepen trust and understanding. Often we are unaware that our behaviour has caused a problem with others, and in talking honestly, we are able to put forward a view that was perhaps unseen. And of course, it is a relief once we understand that what we thought was an offence was a perhaps a misunderstanding.
This may sound as this can only relate to families and personal relationships but I would suggest that its benefits can be felt through any team or organisation.
Frequently, when working with a team, we will hear from one person how well their behaviour is received by another, only for that other person to be quite frank in their absolute dislike of the behaviour that they have struggled to tolerate, but that has undoubtedly caused tension. Imagine, if you are irritated by another person’s behaviour but felt unable to tell them, and then they ask you to back a suggestion they have in mind. Being all too human we might just say no to be as irritating as they are, and of course, the potentially good idea is lost in a personal irritation and nothing to do with business.
We encourage all the teams and individuals we work with to exercise honesty at every possible level. Yes, it can take some training to learn how to manage this in a non-confrontational manner but the benefits are enormous. There can be no trust when real feelings are suppressed. So after checking out your own motives, step out with a little more honestly and feel the benefits. People will always feel more comfortable with anyone they feel is being straight with them, and if you approach any tricky situations with good intentions, I think you will be amazed at how much easier life can be.