Salespeople, with virtually endless variations in between, come in three basic categories. Bad ones tell you what they think you want to hear. Good ones tell you the truth. Great ones tell you the truth – even when its bad – and leave you excited to have received the news. This generalization probably translates into the rest of our lives as well. Unfortunately, I have to admit my position on the scale falls well short of great.
Years ago, a fellow hockey parent standing beside me whilst watching our young ones scurry around the ice turned to me and asked me if I thought their child had the ability to play rep hockey. Having briefly misplaced my diplomacy hat, my one word reply effectively ended the conversation (and as it turned out, any sort of obligation to partake in future conversations). When I recounted the conversation with my wife, she visibly (and audibly) cringed. Why on earth would you say that? she asked. Because it was the truth I replied. But that just sounds so harsh she said. Yes, I had to admit that it did. Why she continued, could you not have said that with some extra effort, and some skating lessons, anything is possible. Well, I had to admit that her reply sounded more palatable. But I couldn’t get myself to believe it to be true. I thought my reply was truthful, and therefore good – though admittedly not diplomatic. Had it been great, perhaps we would remain friends today. It was a good lesson not to delude myself into thinking telling the truth will win many friends. It will not. But, as the saying goes, it will always win you the right ones.
It was a good lesson not to delude myself into thinking telling the truth will win many friends
Increasingly we live in an era in which lying is accepted, if not applauded. Consider a story I heard recently on a sports radio talk show recalling the Canadian Womens Ice Hockey Gold medal game at the Salt Lake City Olympics. In need of a galvanizing moment, Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser reportedly told her teammates that their American counterparts had desecrated the Canadian flag in their dressing room. As it turned out, the story was simply a tale. An effort, an effective one as it turned out, to stoke up the emotions of the team and spurn them on to a great performance. Neither the radio talk show hosts, nor the majority of callers, seemed less than comfortable with the fib. If we have established it is OK to tell a lie when Olympic Gold is at stake, what other moments in our lives does the end warrant the means? We would probably all agree that employing the same tactic with a group of 6 year olds would be inappropriate. At what age does it become appropriate? Never, would be the idealistic answer. But how realistic is that?
If we have established it is OK to tell a lie when Olympic Gold is at stake, what other moments in our lives does the end warrant the means?
Having long ago concluded that I possess neither the intelligence nor memory to make an effective liar, I am pleased to report that resorting to being honest has not impeded my ability to function and earn a living. In my next business incarnation, perhaps I will work on my diplomacy.
Thanks for reading,