The subject line of the email read: “We met at …” and the name of a conference where I’d recently spoken. Thinking it was from someone who attended my session, I opened it sooner versus later. “I never heard back from you,” she wrote, “I wanted to take you to lunch or drop by your office to explain my product more.”
Since I live and work 2,000 miles from her, I knew she’d confused me with someone, or that we’d never met. I answered that I didn’t receive her first email letting her know, “I don’t remember us meeting. But, just to let you know this is not anything of interest to me or my company. Plus, I’m located in Montana.”
She emailed back with information about a Texas only service, informing me, “We met at the booth. No worries at all though.”
That trade show vendor did what many people do — they tell convenient mistruths. I know I didn’t meet her at that conference trade show because I never went to the exhibit floor. With an afternoon flight, I left right after speaking. She’d gotten my contact information because I was a speaker, not an attendee.
It was more convenient for her to send me her standard message than to do a little homework. But, people who are winning at working do the extra work upfront. They realize that casual mistruths, whether emailed, spoken, texted, or put on social media hurt their credibility and ability to get results.
If that vendor had been operating with a winning at working approach, she’d take the extra minutes to verify where that contact information came from, rather than send an email blast to everyone. Then, she could have tailored a message to me more like: “I know we didn’t get a chance to meet at the Houston conference and that you’re not frequently here. However, I thought you might appreciate having information so when you are in the area for an extended stay you could consider our service.”
That simple difference would have made me remember her and her service. A credible, personalized, honest message makes a connection; a generic, inaccurate one does, too — but not the one you want.
Of course, the concept of convenient mistruths isn’t limited to marketing messages. It’s about believability, credibility, and trust in any communication. It’s a convenient mistruth to say you don’t have time when you don’t want to; that you didn’t get the message when you didn’t read it; or say you don’t know about something when you don’t want to say what you do know.
Let’s face it, convenient mistruths are easier at times, and none of us are exempt from having told a few at work. But, too many people rely on telling them as their regular default. Harvard Business Review notes that research, “suggests that Americans average almost two lies per day, though there is huge variability between people.” Other research puts our lying as high as “once in every five conversations.” It turns out most of us are more truthful at home than at work, maybe because some believe “little” deceptions and mistruths are “part of the game” at work.
People who are winning at working don’t believe that. They don’t see themselves as playing a “game” to win at work that requires the regular telling of mistruths, or the easy reliance on the convenience of them.
Instead, they operate with a winning approach, working consciously to bring the best of who they are to their work. Their behaviors are grounded in word-action alignment, well intentioned thinking, and mutually beneficial approaches; their communications are anchored with personal integrity, thoughtful transparency, and inclusive dialogue. With that orientation, people who are winning at working don’t see mistruths as a way, convenient or otherwise, to ever build credibility, believability, trust, or results.