Integrity in the Moment of Choice

This is a topic I’ve written about before and was reminded of by Adam Grant’s LinkedIn post below:

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Among his books, Adam Grant’s Give & Take is one that is incredibly powerful. I am a big fan of his.

As it relates to truthfulness, most of us see ourselves as truthful people. And most people are truthful in ordinary moments when there is no pressure or reason to be less than truthful.

But the key to honesty is integrity in the moment of choice. As the late Stephen Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) said:

“A moment of choice is a moment of truth. It’s the testing point of our character and competence.”

The testing point of our character—that’s the key phrase. I admit that I have flunked this test at various times in my life. I submit that virtually everyone is guilty.

In business, the real truth is sometimes masked in obfuscation of the facts. Telling incomplete or half-truths make you every bit as guilty as the big whopper of a lie. We convince ourselves that we selectively told the truth but, in reality, we misled the other party by not offering the whole story. I joined two ad agencies in the 90s as the top person. For the first couple of months, I wanted to understand the nature of our relationships with clients and how we were structured and why. I felt I was being fed a constant diet of half-truths and personal agenda. I often felt like screaming, “Will anyone please just tell me straight what’s going on?” You can imagine how frustrated I was. But I tried to understand the precarious nature of their feelings and why they wanted to “position their reality”. And as I admit, I am guilty of not being forthright on occasion as well.

People have written about why people lie and the most current them is that it’s not a lie to them We often alter the script in our heads and create “alternate facts” which support our version of reality.

However, the truth is that when we lie, we demean ourselves. When the lie is discovered (and it almost always is) it is a major withdrawal in the relationships we have with co-workers, friends, family. Trust is earned over time. Lying erodes trust quickly and, in some cases, permanently.

The question for us all is—-In a tough situation, how truthful are you…really?

More Strumings


  1. Michael Phelan says:

    A family friend who is a Catholic Norbertine Priest gave a talk about lying many years ago that stuck with me. He said, “heaven and hell are not places you go to, instead they are conditions that you create. Try to remember your first lie. It was most likely to a parent. You may have been shaking or sweating. The lie made you feel uncomfortable because you knew the truth and you were trying to hide it. Your next lie was a little easier. Your tenth lie was much easier. The punishment is built in. You make yourself into a person comfortable being separated from truth, which also separates you from love, which is hell.”

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