Telling the truth may not be comfortable, it may not make you look your best, but it’s a sure way to good relationships.
I like the way one wealthy individual told the truth. He was asked how he had amassed a huge fortune. He said, “It was really quite simple. I bought an apple for five cents, spent the evening polishing it and sold it the next day for ten cents. With this, I bought two apples, spent the evening polishing them, and sold them for twenty cents. And so it went until I had amassed $1.60. It was then that my wife’s father died and left us a million dollars.”
The man told the truth. He didn’t glamorize the process. He didn’t “stretch” the truth for a little extra impact. This man simply told the truth—which is what you’ve got to tell if you aspire to have good relationships with others.
The strange thing is that the truth always comes out anyway—and it may just as well come from you.
A corollary of telling the truth is admitting mistakes. Unfortunately, most cultures discourage people from admitting mistakes. Instead, burying mistakes is the modus operandi. Unless the culture encourages openness and its cousins, truth and honesty, then mistakes are often repeated—not necessarily by you but by others.
Alan Zimmerman tells the story of Katie Paine, founder and CEO of the Delahaye Group. She instituted the “Mistake of the Month Club.” She reported, “Several years ago, I overslept and missed a flight to a big client meeting. I walked into my next staff meeting, plunked $50 down on the table, and said, ‘If you can top this mistake, that money is yours.'”
Katie continued, “People started to own up to mistakes, and suddenly we had a flood of them. At every staff meeting since, we’ve set aside 30 minutes to write up the mistake of the month on a white board. Then we cast a vote. Since 1989 we’ve recorded more than 2000 mistakes. Once a mistake hits the white board, it tends not to happen again. It has become a bonding ritual. Once you’ve gone through it, you’re a member of the club.”
Admitting your mistakes take guts. But that’s how responsibility and trust are built. Truthfulness is the foundation that makes for both improved relationships and increased effectiveness.