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Honesty: Is It Always The Best Policy?

Honesty: Is It Always The Best Policy?
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Remember when you were younger and your parents always taught you to tell the truth? The adage “Honesty is the best policy” seemed to be their mantra. But as we got older, we began to notice that not everyone’s definition of honesty was the same and we also discovered that sometimes we even had to stretch the truth.

One such person who didn’t seem to embrace the honesty adage was a former boss of mine at a medical publishing company where I once worked. We were mailing out honoraria checks to physicians who had attended an international meeting and I noticed the amounts were incorrect. I brought it to my boss’ attention.

“You’re too honest” she replied adding “if anyone says anything, we’ll fix it. If not, don’t say anything”.

As it turned out, she had not allocated enough funds in the budget to cover the actual honoraria amounts.

To me, being ethical and honest are not mutually exclusive. And do you really think the physicians were not going to notice the error? Sure enough, upon receiving their checks, the physicians started calling our client who in turn contacted me to see what was up. Put in a precarious position by my boss, I apologized and reassured the client that we would take care of the error.

In a moment of sweet revenge, I found out years later that my boss was fired for ‘cooking the books’.

Karma in action.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re having a great time at a restaurant (or cocktail lounge), and sign the check without really scrutinizing every line item. You return home to notice (after leaving a generous tip) that there already was a gratuity built in. Oops! This has happened to me more often than I’d care to admit. It’s almost as though some places sneak that in, hoping no one will notice, and most people don’t until it’s too late.

And you can be sure that your waiter or waitress is not going to bring the gratuity to your attention when presenting you with the check!

The gratuity incidents reminded me again that not everyone’s definition of honesty is the same. I’m sure you’ve all experienced deceptive advertising, the proverbial ‘bait and switch’ and ever convenient ‘omission of facts’. In addition to reading people’s minds, we now have to read the small print and read between the lines too. It’s exhausting!

Speaking of exhausting, if you’ve found yourself reentering the dating scene or back on the job market as a baby boomer, you’ll notice these days that honesty takes on a whole new meaning. From the outdated photos that seem to be the standard fare on online profiles to the embellishments on resumes, everyone seems to be on the bandwagon for stretching the truth these days.

Maybe I’m just jealous. When I was younger, I did attempt to lie a few times but it seemed to backfire. I don’t think I was born with the poker face gene or perhaps I just had a problem keeping my stories straight. These days, I can’t remember truthful things I’ve said or done, so I think it’s wise not to further complicate the situation.

Look, we’ve all been guilty of the little white lies. Let’s say a friend gets a haircut and you know she’s going to have to live with that cut for the next few weeks. So you might go with the “you have the face to pull off that length” compliment or something similar, even if you think the cut is unflattering. I mean really, in this case, being brutally honest is not the way to go. (I know some people are now walking over to a mirror wondering if a friend said that to them after their last haircut).

Here’s when brutal honesty is welcome (at least for me). If I’m going down the wrong path (perhaps with the guy I’m dating), I want my friends to give me their honest feedback—now is not the time for enabling my bad decisions with white lies or dishonesty. I prefer the straight up version of truth – don’t you? That’s what real friends are for, especially when we’re entangled in a ‘love is blind’ situation.

Fortunately, I have gone from the ‘love is blind’ to rose-colored glasses to taking no prisoners approach in dating and I attribute these changes to the great honest feedback I’ve received over the years.

So be truthful with us, do you find yourself ‘going to great lengths’ to tell more white lies the older you get, or are you like me, having a hard enough time remembering your truths? Don’t hold back—be like my friends—and tell us your stories straight up with no holds barred. We’d like to think that at the end of the day, honesty really is the best policy.

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