“Sincerity makes the very least person to be of more value than the most talented hypocrite.” – Charles Spurgeon.
Building and investing in relationships means building and investing in trust. In my last article, trust was defined as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” This holds true whether you working on building trust in yourself with others, or assessing whether others (loved ones, strangers, pets, organizations, businesses, politicians, whomever…) are worth risking the corresponding valuable thing (feelings, safety, economic well-being, future of the country, etc.)
Sincerity is a key component to building trust.
You say what you mean and you mean what you say….simple honesty. This includes giving an opinion, as long as it is valid, useful, and backed up with well-thought-out reasoning and data.
There’s a great term from mathematics: congruence. It means that “things agree with each other”…they are harmonious. This is one way of thinking about sincerity. You are both internally and externally congruent:
- Internally – you are honest with yourself. You check your intentions, making sure that you believe and are committed to what you are saying.
- Externally – you are honest and aboveboard with others.
When folks don’t believe you’re sincere, everything you say and do becomes suspect. You’re effectiveness is severely curtailed. If caught in intentional deceit, you will not be believed, even if they’re “harmless lies” you think are told to avoid hurting others or that you tell out of fear. Being caught in one lie places everything in jeopardy….no one knows what else is truth or lie.
Changing your mind is something we all do, so to maintain trust in your sincerity means that you let others know that you are now committed to something different….and be committed. The fast pace of today’s businesses and relationships makes this a bit more likely, so attention to sincerity means being intentional and dedicated to keeping things straight. The changes that impact others must be communicated clearly and quickly.
Another view of congruence is aligning your words with your actions. A frequent breakdown is when you and others “don’t walk the talk.” So what’s going on here? Well, it’s always been much easier to say you’ll do something than to actually go through with it. People don’t realize that when they express their intentions, expectations, desires, beliefs and values, they aren’t just describing themselves, they are creating expectations about their future behavior in the minds of those who listen to them! If you don’t follow through, folks will assume you aren’t sincere.
Communication is always in danger of appearing insincere. Even saying the EXACT SAME THING to two or three different people can result in different messages being conveyed. Now alter those words even just a bit and you can have a catastrophe of message. Avoiding this problem takes real work and concentration, but making sure that you are communicating clearly (or ensuring you’re getting the right message…) is well worth the effort and signals your sincerity to that person.
So, provided you intend to be sincere (an assumption I make throughout…), what can you do to ensure real sincerity in your life and business?
- Be intentional about what you say – Inaccuracies and omissions will only hurt you. Don’t make stuff up and then try to pass it off as fact….in the heat of the moment (or when pressured) it is really easy to blurt out something you think is (or you really wish is) true. It is likely that you are wrong. Also, don’t rely on old data or your memory. When I speak and present statistics and data, I always perform research to ensure I have the most recent and authoritative numbers available. Do the same and your sincerity is bolstered.
- Be intentional about your interests, expectations, ideas, beliefs and values – Everyone can have new interests, evolving beliefs and values. However, you need think about what expectations and archetypes are set up in the minds of others when you speak or write of them. If you don’t want to create a specific expectation, you could preface your remarks with something like, “I haven’t thought this all the way through yet, but I currently think that…”
- Check in with people regularly to align expectations with intentions – Your internal thinking may have gone one way and theirs may have heard something else. Ensure the clarity of the message and ask if that is what they expected? Iron out the kinks, come to agreement, and move forward.
- Check on your internal congruence – How honest are you being with yourself? If you have doubts about what your thoughts are now, should you share them with the person you’re speaking with? It’s better to share that you’re not entirely sure of something than to not express doubt and then get found out.
- Check on your external congruence – In speaking to a person or group, are you being consistent with what you’ve said before? If not, ask yourself why….have you changed your mind? Has the situation changed in some way? Explain the reason… which may mean getting back to people to let them know.
- Ask folks to tell you how they interpret what you say – This gets back to clarity of message. For example, in a business conversation prior to an engagement, you might ask, “When I say ‘I agree with you,’ what do you think I mean?” Does the agreement mean the engagement is real, or that you agree there is a problem to be solved? There are any number of other interpretations, but you can see where misunderstandings can take place and really derail a relationship and the corresponding level of trust.
While sincerity is not the only component of a trusting relationship, it is so visible and easily wrecked that it is worth spending time evaluating and working on. Your life and business can only benefit, and isn’t that really the point?