Honesty is a quality that most people make a conscious effort to value. Whether in a personal relationship, a professional endeavor, or when voicing political views, honesty is consistently among the traits which individuals value most in others. However, it’s oftentimes difficult or impractical to be totally honest in every situation.
Taking blame for a terrible mistake at work, for instance, takes courage. Likewise, it can be challenging and intimidating to be truthful with a significant other in every circumstance. Complete honesty is not without its drawbacks. But when we shield others from the truth, who are we really protecting?
Setting aside the issue of morality, however, some argue that honesty simply isn’t the best policy. Harvard Business Review, for instance, published a study which stated that while honesty can and does play an important role in business, lying can actually pay off on an incredibly large scale. This finding doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise, as dishonesty is a common stereotype of many (financially) successful bankers and business executives–and not without good reason.
Surely, the world has seen plenty of powerful people exploit their positions for personal gain. In fact, it often seems like the bigger the business, the greater the potential for it to be fraught with corruption. But what about business that is done on a smaller scale? Erik Raney, the membership director for the Rockaway YMCA in Queens, NY, has made ground level business operations his area of expertise, and lists honesty as perhaps the most important consideration when dealing with customers as well as employees.
“Accountability is huge, from both directions,” he says. “When it comes to knowing where a person stands, what their responsibilities are, or even when they’ve made a mistake, if they’re willing to identify it in order to tackle it head-on and move forward, that’s an incredible source of strength within any organization.”
But beyond the benefits which honesty lends an interpersonal relationship, there is also a practical, results oriented component.
“It’s a simple matter of efficiency,” Raney continues. “In order to make progress on anything, we first need to know where we stand. If we’re dealing in fragmented or fictional information, the entire operation becomes vulnerable.”
Similarly, Ahmed Awadelkarim, an entrepreneur and small business owner, tells BTR that he believes honesty plays a vital role in conducting business.
“In my experience communication is the key,” he says. “Empathy is huge, [such as] the ability to see a problem from someone else’s perspective, and without a doubt that requires openness and honesty from everyone involved.”
Awadelkarim launched his startup, Edfundr, just over a year ago and has attracted the eye of several prominent investors with whom he has dealt with extensively. He is quick to stress honesty as the key component to building such relationships effectively.
Perhaps it’s because honesty is such an important aspect of interpersonal relationships that it plays such a significant role in the realm of business. Beyond the profit incentive, people who are honest with themselves and with the people closest to them are often happier and more content with themselves, and therefore their paths to success are more easily facilitated.
Romantic entanglements are no different. As is the case with business endeavors, communication is crucial, and without honesty it becomes useless. True, it’s best to be diplomatic with honesty on such a personal level, but without being honest, a romance can quickly turn poisonous. Deceit is treachery, and big or small, a betrayal within a relationship can have disastrous consequences.
While it may be cliched to harp on honesty as being the key to a successful relationship and a peaceful life, it’s cliched because people can’t help coming back to being truthful as a source of strength and happiness. It can be tempting to tell a lie to spare (what we think are) another person’s feelings, and it can be just as tempting to compromise our own integrity to spare ourselves the negative consequences of our actions. But to live a life of openness and honesty takes courage, and such courage is an incredible source of strength and inspiration.
Featured photo courtesy of Scott.