Business
In Business, Honesty Is Not Always the Best Policy

by Carrie Greene
Can honesty harm your business? Unfortunately it can! However, good news is that taking care of just a couple of precautions can help you remain honest and safeguard your business interest as well.
I remember a conversation I had with a colleague of mine several years ago. I told him that I was frustrated because I knew that I could help several of the people I had recently spoken to, but none of them decided to work with me.
 
We talked about handling objections in a sales conversation. One of the things he shared with me was that I needed to tell the truth, to call people out if necessary and not hide behind being nice.
 
It was really good advice and it made a dramatic shift in the effectiveness of my sales conversations.
 
Shortly after speaking with my colleague I got an email from someone who had decided not to work with me. The reason she gave me was money. With my new tool of complete honesty, I responded back.
 
I don't remember exactly what I said, but my response was based on the conversation we had. It was what I truly believed was going on. I wrote something along the lines of "I believe the reason you are saying no has nothing to do with the money but rather because you are afraid."
 
What I do remember is how quickly she responded to that email. Within minutes I knew exactly how she felt about my response. She told me that I was right. Her decision had nothing to do with money, but she wasn't afraid. It was none of my business why she was saying no but using money as an excuse, was easier than going into it. She told me I had no right to judge her and to immediately remove her name from any future communications. She never wanted to hear from me again.
 
Ouch.
 
I was confused because I knew what I had said was true and really, I had just meant to reengage her in a conversation.
 
It's been a while since I thought about this story, but I was reminded of it recently when someone in a group I coach shared what happened to her. She left a voicemail for someone she had been trying to get in touch with. In the voicemail she called him out and told him the truth she saw. That got his attention. She got a message back telling her that he didn't appreciate the feedback and that her message completely shifted the impression he had of her... and not for the better.
 
In my role as a coach I'm supposed to share what I see. It's my job to be honest. It's why people hire me. I help them get past their own obstacles. I help them to see the things they miss. Things they can't see because they are too close. Sometimes what they are missing is simple information, but more often what they are missing is inside of them.
When my clients hire me they expect me to be completely honest, that's not to say that I can be mean. I share truths that benefit my clients in a way that supports them and helps them grow.
 
If this is true, and I know it is, what did I do wrong in the email I sent? Why had it elicited so a vicious response?
 
I made two big mistakes.
  1. I did not ask permission to share my truth. This woman was not my client. Whether what I said was correct, or not, I had no right to say it, it was not my place. And, while it was not my intention, in effect, I was bullying her. Of course she defended herself in her response to me. I gave her no other choice. She had to prove me wrong. It was her right to decide whether or not she wanted to hear it before I shared it.

  2. I communicated by email. I was responding to her email. I wanted to reengage her in a conversation. An email is not a conversation. An email is a one-way exchange. A voicemail message is a one-way exchange, too. No matter how carefully I selected my words, there is no way she could have understood what I really meant. No wonder she got angry with me.
Here is my suggestion to you.
 
First, share your truth only when you have permission. I am not giving you permission to be mean or let loose on someone or tell him or her about every fault you see. When the time is right and you share, do it constructively and with compassion. Share information with the intention to help someone grow or learn and do so only when they are open to hearing it.
 
Second, never share this type of information in a vacuum like in an email, voicemail or text message. Share when you are speaking with someone. Share when it's just the two of you when nobody else can hear the exchange. When they can listen and respond to you and you can listen to them and respond to them.
The good news is that this is the type of mistake you only make once. Hopefully you'll learn it from me and won't have to experience it yourself to learn it.
 
Have you ever stepped over the line? What happened?
Carrie Greene is a speaker, author & business coach. She is a business strategist & who helps entrepreneurs get clear on what they want and creating simple plans to get there. She is the author of "Chaos to Cash: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Eliminating Chaos, Overwhelm & Procrastination So You Can Create Ultimate Profit!" Resources at http://www.carriegreenecoaching.com/
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