Truth or Consequences: The Facts About Unicorns

In my professional life as well as in my personal life, I have met more than a few business people from CEO’s of large corporations to industrious entrepreneurs and quite a few who fall between the two extremes.  The ones I have chosen to associate with are those who make a habit of being honest, straight forward and trustworthy.  There’s a reason for this.  You see, when someone makes a habit of being honest, straight forward and trustworthy, the expectation they place on those with whom they work or associate is that they will be honest, straight forward and trustworthy as well.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a lie as follows:  to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.  Now some people will justify certain lies with disclaimers.  They will say that a little white lie that spares someone’s feelings isn’t really a lie since you’re doing it for a good reason.  The problem with that justification is that it really doesn’t spare anyone’s feelings.  Once the little white lie is found out, the person to whom the little white lie was told will feel betrayed.  The person who told the little white lie when it’s found it will be labeled a liar.  That makes for two people who are immediately hurt by a supposedly harmless white lie. 

There are those who will say that I am correct with this assertion but it’s only correct if the little white lie is found out.  To those people I would like to point out that a lie – even a little white lie – thrives on destruction when it survives in secrecy.  And so to claim that the secrecy of a little white lie means the lie hurts no one gives a false sense of security to those who engage in telling little white lies from time to time.

Again, there are those who will say that telling the truth could cause untold emotional pain to the person hearing the truth.  Once again, I would like to point out that telling the truth doesn’t have to be done in a ruthless and uncaring way.  Being gentle with hard truths is not lying.  Being gentle with hard truths means you’re allowing time for the other party to process the information as it is being delivered.

Now Webster’s Dictionary also provides a secondary definition for lying:  to create a false or misleading impression.

Over the past few days, I learned that an entrepreneur I have met on occasion has been creating a false and misleading impression about his previous employment.  I was surprised as it always surprises me when I learn that someone in business makes use of false and misleading impressions to get ahead in the world.  For some, the misinformation on this person’s curriculum vitae may seem innocuous for the most part.  After all, how much difference is there between stating that one was an Executive Director of a well-known local college sometime between 2008 and 2010 and the more exact truth which is that this person was actually the Acting Executive Director of the Advancement and Alumni Department for a six-month period?

The difference is that one expects more from an Executive Director of a well-known local college over an implied 2 year period in terms of responsibilities, abilities, skills et al than what one expects of an Acting Executive Director for a department over an exact six-month period.  When someone is willing to lie in this way, it makes honest, straight forward and trustworthy people question what else such a person has lied about in the past and what else such a person will lie about going forward.

Regardless of whether one tells an outright lie, a lie of omission, a lie of speaking truth by technicality (also known as a splitting hairs), a little white lie, a lie of repeatedly and purposely under-promising to be able to over-deliver, or any other kind of lie that hasn’t been mentioned here, a lie is a poor way to do business.

Now what do lies have to do with unicorns you may ask?  Unicorns – whether you believe in them or not – are rarely seen.  Likewise, for those who rely on lies to get them to where they hope they are going in life, the truth is also rarely seen.  When the truth does show up, the liar insists to those around him (or her) that they’re imagining things and he (or she) redoubles his (or her) efforts to convince those around him (or her) that the lie is real.

Do not be fooled by such people.  The unicorn will show up when it’s least expected.  The truth always wins out in the end.  So ask yourself this question:  Isn’t it better to know what kind of person you’re doing business with by doing a little research than to unknowingly buy into someone’s lies that will only hurt you in the short-term and in the long-term?

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