It's a fundamental rule for living a good life.
This guest article from PsychCentral was written by Chantal M. Gagnon, PhD, LMHC.
Gerry Spence, the famous attorney who has an amazing record for winning in court, says that people have "truth tentacles." That's how he became so successful — by telling juries the truth.
I agree; I think people can tell when they're being lied to. Sometimes we may put blinders on because we don't like the reality we see, but deep inside, we generally know the truth.
I got a text message recently from a manager at my answering service, stating that he wanted to work to improve our relationship. (Our business relationship has been damaged over the three years I've known him.) I simply answered, "It's easy. Be truthful and keep your commitments."
As soon as I sent that reply, it struck me: that's the secret to all relationships. People have truth tentacles. They know, or eventually figure out, when you're not being completely honest with them.
When people can't trust you, they can't fully be in a relationship with you. If you don't keep your commitments, you become unreliable — in other words, untrustworthy. If you want great relationships in any area of your life, be truthful and keep your commitments. Then just watch how they all improve.
Don't overcommit. Make your commitments with care and live up to them. In other words, undercommit and overdeliver. That's the way both to impress people (your clients, your bosses, your peers) and to gain their trust. Don't fake it just because you don't know an answer and want to be quick on your feet. If you don't know the answer, tell them you'll work to find out. Be truthful and offer a reasonable solution.
You can really grow your business and career in this way because people are not looking for you to be perfect. They simply want to do business with someone they trust and who has their back.
I do a lot of infidelity counseling in my practice, and trust is a tough thing to restore after an affair. But for most people, it's not the affair that is hardest to overcome — it's the continued lying once the guilty party has been confronted. People can forgive mistakes and poor judgment, but it's harder to forgive an approach to life and problems that includes lying.
Another common way people are not truthful in their love relationships is by being afraid to "rock the boat." They're not honest with their partner about their feelings or emotions. Then resentment builds over the years, and that's a difficult chasm to cross.
Don't be afraid to rock the boat a bit. Just be sure to give your partner (and yourself) a life preserver before you do. Talk to them with respect.
If the boat capsizes, so what? You'll be in the water, but together and alive. And then you can always rebuild your love boat, bigger and stronger. Without honesty (albeit gentle honesty), intimacy cannot grow.
Keeping your commitments in parenting is huge. Children tend to interpret everything as being about them (there's a neurological reason for this). So if you don't go to their play because of some last-minute catastrophe at work, they think: He didn't come because I'm not that important. I'm not a good enough kid to be important.
Over time, these negative thoughts become part of their self-concept. They start believing that they're not good enough to merit love and attention.
Keep your commitments to your kids, be appropriately truthful with them and you will become their rock and foundation. They'll trust you. They'll know you have their back.
Sometimes, the person we betray the most is ourselves. We can lie to ourselves like nobody else can. How often do you break a promise to yourself? How often do you twist the truth because you don't trust yourself to be able to handle the reality or the pain?
You can't expect to have good relationships with others, if you don't first learn to trust, respect and honor yourself. Start by being honest with yourself. Find the courage to face the truth and to live your values, and the rest will begin falling into place.
This article was originally published at psychcentral.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.