Is Honesty the Best Policy?

Darren has written a great post rebutting a guest post about confident writing. One of the key points that stands out is the original article recommended ‘You Don’t Need to Tell the Truth all the Time’. I agree with Darren, this is dangerous talk!

My recommendation is wherever possible, tell the truth, or at least don’t lie. Experience tells me that this is by far the best policy. Don’t incriminate yourself but also do not try to deceive. Lies are usually to cover up or give an inflated impression of success or expertise. Write the truth with confidence.

Well all know habitual fantasists. In my agency days I used to have an insecure boss who would try to bluff every situation. Clients were never convinced and it just damaged the relationship for all of us. Almost always the client would have been happier if he had not tried to impress so much or if they could have the real situation. His approach was almost always to promise the world on a stick. All the lies, cover ups and misdirections were just distractions from the actual work at hand. It was only when one key client pulled the project manager and myself to one side and confided they knew what he was up to that I realized just how bad an actor he had been. They actually requested in future we visit without him.

Lying is often counter productive. Another colleague claimed a project was “almost done” for months until he had to admit he hadn’t even started. If he had explained his difficulty at the start the rest of us could have helped him, the client would have been informed and he would have not needed the embarrassing mea culpa. His pride in wanting to seem on top of his work actually undermined our confidence in him.

People underestimate how hard it is to lie. You have to have a good memory and eye for detail to be a convincing liar. Most of us do not possess these characteristics to the level required. Bad lies are easily detected and the damage done when discovered is just not worth it.

I’m not suggesting that you open your heart on every single post. Not only is that unnecessary, it would soon get dull. Also I wouldn’t ever suggest full disclosure, you could get into more trouble than it is worth. Telling the truth does not mean revealing sources or breaking confidences, just to not mislead.

There is no need to lie when being honest works better. Fact is people are more likely to connect with you and your anecdotes will be more interesting because of the authentic details.

12 thoughts on “Is Honesty the Best Policy?

  1. I say it like I mean it. I can’t recall an exception to that. That is what can sometimes give the impression of people believing you are very passionate in your work. I don’t mess around. Crap is crap and awesome is awesome.

    I define successful blogging as the ability to repeatedly inform, entertain, and satisfy your readers. If you are able to pull off those things, well, then you have the potential to be great blogger.

    The only other part is getting people to read your stuff and keep coming back. That is another article entirely which I might be given the opportunity to write here at Performancing in the future.

  2. Good advice, Chris, especially with internet being much more social and interactive. You don’t want to ruin your reputation by being caught as a liar. It’s not worth it.

  3. After working for 20 years as an Administrative/Editorial Assistant and having to lie for bosses all the time, I refuse to do it now. All it takes is one lie to trip you up and ruin your reputation.

    I think if you can’t tell the truth perhaps you shouldn’t broach the subject. I’d rather live by the “don’t ask don’t tell” philosophy then to lie.

  4. Really, no matter how small the lie, in the end the truth is going to somehow catch up … I think everybody knows this …..

    I’ve just written a post on this stuff… any one interested can find it on my blog …

    Lex – internet business blog for web entrepreneurs, small online business, web
    developers and serious bloggers .

  5. I had an in-law who actually started a company with reality, then lied himself out of it. Needless to say, his lawyer had to do some serious matchmaking between him and his shareholders. Don’t lie, it’s more expensive than you could wish to afford. (And of course, staying off the booze with their money is also highly advisable… part of the experience…)

  6. I have worked for people that would lie to clients and employees. I couldn’t stay working there because for me honesty is the best policy. He would get ticked at me because when the phone rang and I answered it he would wave his arms and mouth, ‘I am not here’. At that point I would always look him right in the eyes and say, ‘Yes, he’s right here’

    He got to the point that he would run out into the parking lot when ever the phone rang. I changed jobs.

    I have to be one of the worlds worst liars and never got away with it as a kid. One just had to look at me and I am sure the words ‘I am a liar’ were all over my face. I am happy I am the way I am because perhaps if I was good at lying I might just have become a liar in life.

    Oh, even when I am fishing I never lie about the one that got away. Really, it’s true…

  7. Yes, definitely write with passion stuff you really believe in, just don’t divulge every last detail of your life in the pursuit of authenticity

  8. Don’t lie, don’t bluff. I agree that you shouldn’t “open your heart” every time you write, but in general, writing should be from the heart. If I write from the heart and I’m not honest, what does that say about me?

    Mike Goad

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