February 16th, 2016

This is one of a series of posts on enemies of trust at work – behaviors that can damage other peoples’ trust in you. Knowing the enemies you face can help you avoid them. This material is based on the trust building framework described in The Thin Book of Trust: An essential primer for building trust at work by Charles Feltman.

Telling “probable truths”. Saying something as if it is true when in fact you are not completely sure it is. You might think is probably true (so it’s low risk to say it is), or you would like to be true (“people will be more likely to give my project the go-ahead if they think this is true”), or you plan to make it true (“I’ll tell her I made that phone call, and I will do it this afternoon”). You may have done this once or twice and it’s turned out to be okay. However, if people find out what you say in these situations is not actually true in more than a couple of instances they will begin to question your honesty, competent, or both.

Avoid this enemy by recognizing when you would like to say something is true but you are not completely sure it is. This, of course, takes being unstintingly honest with yourself. When the idea does arise to tell a probable truth stop, take a breath, and check your personal integrity meter. Ask yourself: Do I really want to do this? What does it mean for my sense of integrity if I do? Then begin by saying something like: “I think this is true (or accurate, or correct) and I can’t say so for sure at this time. Here is the information I do have…”