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Monday, October 26, 2015

Honesty: What Gets Said

When I was a kid, lying got me an automatic spanking. My kids grew up with the same rule. I’ve written about honesty before because it is important to me. Today, I don’t want to talk about lying. I suspect most people try to avoid lying unless they find themselves in a particularly tricky situation.

Honesty is more than not lying. It also includes saying things that need to be said, even when it is uncomfortable to do so. This may be easier to do with people you know well and trust, but doesn’t everyone deserve the truth?

I am a musician and I happen to be putting together a band. We have been auditioning musicians. Before we invite them in, we like to listen to their music and have a conversation with them. A week or two ago, I was in conversation with a guitar player. He seemed to be a nice enough guy, but he sent me links to his music and he just didn’t have the skills we are looking for.

I sent him an email back explaining that I didn’t think his style and skill level matched our needs and wished him luck finding a group to play with. His response was very defensive and it was clear he was upset. I could have come up with some bullshit story that would have made him feel better, but I felt he deserved the truth about why we were not inviting him. It was up to him to decide whether I was just an asshole or if there was something to be learned from the experience.

I’ve come to a point in my life at which I no longer wish to deal with people whose egos are so fragile that they need to be lied to in order for them to continue to feel good about themselves. That doesn’t mean I don’t need to deal with these types of people. Everyone does. However, if my honesty's too much for them, they are welcome to choose not to deal with me. If it is someone that I must deal with, I am fully capable of moderating what I say.

By moderating, I mean reducing what I say. People with fragile egos will be told what they need to be told. I may even say things that help them feel good about themselves. There’s no harm in that. You can’t help people that don’t want it. I draw the line at lying or obscuring the truth as I see it.

If you’re like me in this regard, you may think about saying something that is not exactly honest in order to avoid the potential emotional pain you might cause them. I’ve made a decision that it is not my place to encourage someone’s ego problems. Maybe if people had to confront their ego problems more regularly due to people being honest with them, they would have a better chance of addressing their issues.

People who don’t have ego problems almost always appreciate honest feedback. So often, they don’t get it because people are “just being nice.” Sometimes, the messenger gets feedback after being honest that helps them realize that their understanding was mistaken. In either case, both parties can benefit from an honest exchange. Be nice. Tell the truth.
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