Originally posted on 08/07/12
In recent conversations with clients, colleagues, vendors, and friends, the issue of transparency has been a common thread. Perhaps there is a message for me in the fact that it keeps coming up. Perhaps there is a message for me to share with you.
When we’re young, we’re told that honesty is the best policy. And we believe it wholeheartedly.
As we age, we find that honesty sometimes hurts people (and that there is no good answer to the question, “Does this outfit make me look fat?”). We learn that if we can’t say something nice, we ought not say anything at all. We learn that holding some information close to the vest can aid us in business negotiations. We learn that not everyone needs to know everything.
Maturity and experience teach us that life is complicated, and that the simple rule to Never Tell a Lie is not as simple to keep as it used to be.
Far be it from me to give advice or pass judgment about what it means to be honest. The beauty of being an adult is that we each get to decide for ourselves what that very loaded word means for us and in our lives.
Transparency is not quite the same thing as honesty. Transparency implies that one can see through to the heart of things, that there are no facades, masks, illusions, or ulterior motives.
If you were to operate with more transparency, would you see improvement in any areas of your life? For example:
- If you cut down on sarcasm, would people find it easier to understand you? Trust you?
- If you shared more information with subordinates, would they be more productive? More loyal?
- If you admitted when you felt hurt instead of covering up with anger or indifference, would your relationships be stronger?
- If you told the truth about why you’re turning down an invitation, would you gain support or open up a discussion about your likes, dislikes, and demands on your time?
- If you owned up to your mistakes, would you hold yourself more accountable in the future?
- If you turned down prospective clients who weren’t a great fit for your services, would that leave room for getting more ideal clients? And free your prospects to seek more ideal providers?
Transparency is not about over-sharing or burdening people with information they can’t handle. It’s not about showing all your cards during a business negotiation. It’s not about dumping emotions to make yourself feel better. It’s not even about being honest at all costs, without regard to the consequences.
Transparency is about saying only what is true, and choosing accurate words to describe what is happening, what you are feeling, and what you want.
Operating with transparency means having fewer misunderstandings, greater clarity, less guilt, and no fear of being unmasked.
Your homework is to pick one situation or relationship that could benefit from more transparency on your side. Try it and see what happens.