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Published on: January 25, 2017

The truth and nothing but the truth


I received a call from a prospective customer asking about sales training. My standard policy, at the beginning of any response to an inquiry, is to ask the following question. “What do you want the people attending training to think, know and do when the training is over?

She responded, “Our industry is fraught with fast-buck artists who will say anything to get the sale. I want to develop a reputation for our company of being the exception to the rule. I want the customer to see it as honest, and I want my people to be honest in their dealings with everyone. I want them to think about ways to build customer trust. I want them to know that trust takes a long time to build and can be shattered in a second. As to what I want them to do, I want them to tell the truth, even if it means a short-term loss in order to establish customer confidence for the future.”

Some may think she is being too idealistic. I believe that if she has the courage and the management support to follow through, she will build a rock-solid organization.

Her first goal is easy to attain. In truth, it is not hard to get someone to trust us. There is something down deep in all of us that makes us want to believe the person who says, “Trust me, I wouldn’t lie to you.” I suppose the reason is that it is just too hard to go through life in constant fear that the people we come into contact with are being dishonest. British novelist Graham Greene said it best, “It is impossible to go through life without trust; that is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all.”

As to her second point, we must be very careful. Once we have said, “Trust me,” we must live up to that trust, because if we break it, we can expect a violent reaction.

I think President Richard Nixon was a perfect example of how the American people react to someone who betrays their trust. In accepting the presidential nomination in 1969, he told us, “Let us begin by committing ourselves to the truth—to see it like it is, and tell it like it is—to find the truth, to speak the truth, and to live the truth.” People believed him and elected him to office. Well, history has recorded how, with the ferocity of avenging angels, the people reacted to his breach of faith.

Last, I think it is important that her sales force not only tell the truth but do their jobs in such a manner that the truth is understood.

I once had a boss who, in the two years that I worked for him, never told me a lie, yet in that same time led me to believe many things that were not true. You might ask, “How can a truth and a lie exist at the same time?” The answer is that the truth can be calculated to lead the listener to a wrong conclusion. The teller of the “truth” did not lie, but the trust is just as badly broken. I agree with William James who said, “There is no worse lie than a truth, so said as to be misunderstood by those who hear it.”

The man or woman who says, “I never lie,” is most likely lying to someone. All of us at some time have said we liked someone’s new hairdo or dress when we really didn’t. However, the more we lie, the easier it becomes and sooner or later, when we are caught, all our words become suspect. The truth and nothing but the truth may be an unattainable goal, but the closer we can come to it, the more respect we can have for ourselves.

William Hodges is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. He also hosts an interview-format television program, Spotlight on Government, on the Tampa Bay Community Network, that airs Mondays at 8 p.m. (Bright House channel 639, Verizon channel 30) and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. (BH channel 638, Verizon channel 36). The shows can also be viewed at  Phone: 813-641-0816. Email:  Website: