Saturday, June 11, 2011

Stretching the Truth

There are some business lessons to be learned from the two recent cases of people who stretched the truth on their use of the HOV lane.

First there was the pregnant woman who claimed that there were two passengers – herself and her baby. She was certainly sort of telling the truth, but it was a very generous interpretation of the rule. The second case was much more devious and the man was charged. What did he do? He had a blown-up, dressed doll in the car. To me this was a blatant attempt to beat the system. He just wanted to reach his destination faster.

But it didn’t really pan out the way he expected I am sure. When we try to take short cuts, stretch the truth or exaggerate about what we have achieved or can do, we run the risk of getting caught out and bringing discredit to our reputation. Honesty is the best policy.

In business, I’ve met people who oversell what their product can do, or what benefit they can bring to an organization. Plus you never know who knows who. I never forget reading a resume in which the person claimed to be the lead in a certain project. She wasn’t to know that I would be reading her resume but as the person who HAD been in charge of the project, I could quickly attest that this wasn’t true, which caused us all to question what else was false or a stretch of the truth.

The English language is a persuasive tool that can be used to mislead others. We hear what we want to hear, rather than the actual truth. Over the years I have been nominated numerous times for the Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award. When you say it quickly, it might sound as if I actually won it, but I never have. It is those sorts of interpretations which yes, can work in your favour but you have to be careful.

When you exaggerate about what you do, or give off a false air of self-confidence, it can come back to bite you. I’ve noticed that I will chatter on about my accomplishments when I am feeling insecure or feel the need to prove myself, but afterwards I regret it. I now really try to catch myself before I get caught up in that cycle of insecurity.

Having said that I am a big component of faking it until you make it – but it has to be done with honesty, not by totally misleading the other person.

Yup, honesty is the best policy. Be who you are, warts and all. People will respect you for your authenticity. Taking short cuts doesn’t always mean that you reach your destination faster. Sometimes it can derail your plans.

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