Honesty is Not the Best Policy…Depending On Who You’re Talking To

In my very first job in corporate America, my manager sat me down and told me that a client told him I was too honest.

Wait…what?

I worked at a private label credit card company and I was the account manager for a certain retailer. As such, I was responsible for training the client’s front-line staff as to how this credit card worked.

“Well,” my then manager said “you told them that it’s a win for them because they’ll see a larger basket size, and it’s a win for us because of the interest fees.”

“And?” I think. “That’s the truth and we’re all adults.” Surely no one thinks we’re in the credit card business out of the kindness of our hearts. I cried for a few days after that incident.

I cried because I thought adults were better than this, I thought I could speak the truth and grown-ups would get it.

I cried because I realized that we’re not logical creatures. It’s ironic because I’m a very emotional person in private, but, as a 22-year-old, I thought “real” grown ups were ruled by logic.

For the next 10+ years, I was in self edit mode. I second guessed everything that was coming out of my mouth, to the point that I may say nothing at all. I thought of all the offenses that my words may cause someone… so it was easier to be quiet.

This hurt my career.

That manager taught me to soften my tone, and my voice. And as a woman in corporate America, that’s the last thing I needed to do.

In hindsight, this incident was important. It taught me that I can’t be successful over-indexing either way. I can’t go all-in on being ruled by logic, nor can I solely rely on emotions. Humans are complicated beings.

With that realization, as a 37-year-old woman, I’m a force to be reckoned with; I learned how to be strong, be heard, and be truthful, while still being kind. I’ve learned that my opinions and experience matter. I’ve learned if I try to solve for everyone’s objections to what I may say, before I say it, I’m doing myself a disservice.

You cannot control how someone interprets your message. You will always have someone take what you say with good intent, poorly.

What can you do? Speak confidently with conviction and kindness…trust me, it works.

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