How & Why You Should Live A Life of Integrity

mahatma gandhi Integrity

Have you ever stopped to assess how honest you are? Most people lie almost every single day, or at least omit the truth, and hide their real thoughts and feelings about what is happening. Why do people do this? Let’s explore that in an open and honest discussion, including what it’s like to live with integrity at all times… to be genuine and real.

Most people consider themselves to be “good”. After a career of working with dangerous and recidivist offenders, I have had some of the most dishonest and selfish people in New Zealand tell me time and time again that they see themselves as basically good people. And a huge majority of the non-criminal friends and associates I have had also indicate that they see themselves as people of integrity… “I only lie when I have too”.

So what is integrity? In my opinion this concept requires a best-effort attempt to at all times be transparent and honest. A person of integrity is, in my mind, someone who is the same person in all situations, from the boardroom meeting, to a funeral, to breakfast with their family. They do not hide their reactions or opinions, they do not manipulate others through deception, and they do not pretend.

Very few people I have met fit this strict criteria, because most people I know (including those I would put into the “good person” category) at least omit their view of the truth regularly. Think about yourself during a normal week; how many times do you:

  • Tell someone you feel “fine” when really you feel otherwise?
  • Smile and nod in agreement with something you do not agree with?
  • Compliment someone to make them feel better, rather than because you feel a genuine impulsive desire to compliment them?
  • Help someone out without asking for anything in return, but secretly make a mental note of the favour because they now “owe you one”?
  • Allow someone to inconvenience you, frustrate you, or get in your way, just to avoid conflict?

 

Hey, we all do these things, so don’t beat yourself up! You may consider dishonesty to be limited to deliberately deceiving someone in a malicious way for your own benefit, when actually it goes far beyond that. You may find yourself being dishonest with the best of intentions. If you are like I was, you hide your feelings or tell lies for any of the following reasons:

  • To keep a situation stable
  • To avoid confrontation and conflict
  • To prevent someone’s feelings from getting hurt
  • To keep information confidential to ensure someone’s privacy
  • To avoid hassle, including having to explain yourself or defend your actions

So what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with being “nice”? I used to believe that there was nothing wrong with this, that in fact I was being a noble person with high social intuition and emotional quotient (EQ) by keeping the peace and facilitating a happy atmosphere. But then as time passed I realised that I was actually only creating short-term positive outcomes; that unbeknownst to me I was causing long-term negative consequences. By not honestly presenting my feelings about things each and every time I had the opportunity to, I had set some precedents that ended up with something negative I had to overcome later on.

 

Some of the negative consequences of telling “good” lies

Hiding your negative feelings in reaction to something someone does or says may seem like a legitimate strategy to keep the peace and avoid unnecessary conflict. However, what you are actually doing is condoning an idea or behaviour that you truly believe is negative, and therefore giving the person who is doing it unhelpful feedback. If, for example, a friend starts going on a racist rant and you don’t argue with him, just to avoid conflict, then you are giving him feedback that it is OK to be racist. You are setting him up to reinforce his own skewed views. Later on, he assaults someone for being a different race to him, all because no-one ever challenged his distorted views.

Helping out someone without asking for anything in return, yet secretly thinking that this person now owes you a favour, may feel like you are reducing their guilt in receiving your help. Think about it: you are actually increasing guilt! They now feel vaguely indebted to you or, more likely, they feel like they are imposing on you. If instead you tell them honestly that you will ask for their help for something in the future in return, not only will they feel totally guilt-free about the exchange, they will also get a better understanding of how valuable your time is. This way you don’t set a precedent of them under-valuing you and abusing your generosity.

Put yourself in the position of someone asking for help: doesn’t it feel better when you can offer them something back in return? Doesn’t something feel more valuable when it is not completely free?

Integrity Picture Quote

 

Can you be honest in a safe way?

Yes, if you take the time to present your views and feelings appropriately. Obviously, if your boss says something you disagree with and you shout out “That’s ridiculous, don’t be such an idiot, I want you out of my life you moron!” then you put your job on the line. It’s all about how you present your feelings. There are many different ways to be honest, and being diplomatic and respectful can also have integrity. Showing respect for someone because of their position or relationship with you does not override honesty.

The only way to learn how to be genuinely honest in all situations is to practice it. You don’t have to dive straight into removing all dishonesty from your interactions this very instant. Once I realised I wanted to make this change, I started off gradually, with only observing my dishonesty at first. For a couple of weeks I didn’t try to be more honest, I just tried to catch myself out when I was lying or hiding my true feelings. I tried to analyse why I did it, and what the outcomes of doing so was.

Only after that did I start expressing my feelings more honestly, dishing them out over time in a controlled and experimental fashion. I would set mini-goals, like “today I will answer every question honestly”, or “in today’s team meeting I’m going to express that I think there could be a better way of doing x, y or z”.

So being honest is not about being brutally critical. If that’s how it comes out, then maybe you need to learn how to look for the positives in people rather than just the faults. One way of doing this is following the management practice of giving five positive feedback comments for every negative one. Don’t just express those negative feelings you hide, but also expand and increase your expression of positive ones to balance them out. There’s a lot of great things happening out there once you open your eyes by trying to find them.

One way of delivering feedback is to follow models of effective reflection. My favourite is the “BEID” model, which stands for:

Behaviour / Example / Impact / Do

Basically, to avoid personally attacking someone when you are trying to express a feeling, try following a template that clarifies what exactly you disagree with. If, for example, someone regularly makes you look bad in team meetings, you could pull them aside after one and express yourself using this model:

“I just wanted to give you some feedback on something you keep doing. I feel that you often undermine me in team meetings (behaviour), like today when you said that I didn’t get my report in on time (example). It makes me look bad in a situation where I’m not able to explain myself or the context (impact). What I would prefer is that you take me aside and discuss these with me before team meetings, so that we can look at alternatives to improve how I work (do)”.

This is much more effective than saying that he’s a jerk behind his back to your colleagues!

 

“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.” - Zig Ziglar

 

 

Conclusion

There is a lot more required to the practical aspect of living a life of integrity, and it’s all about having control over how you express yourself. But it’s also about being honest with yourself first and foremost; admitting to yourself that not only can you be dishonest, you do it because you are afraid of the consequences of being honest.

I can tell you from personal experience that the transition to a life of integrity is nowhere near as hard as it seems to be. You’ll find people respect and trust you more, that they start seeking your feedback because of your integrity. One of the best things I noticed was that I felt much more comfortable and guilt-free in more situations, because I had nothing to hide. It made me feel like more of a real man.

I look forward to your honest feedback! Have a great week (and I genuinely mean that). Thanks for reading.

Dan is a lifestyle and success coach, with his own company The Inspirational Lifestyle Ltd. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand, and loves to share his advice and opinions on how to attain success. Make sure you checkout more of Dans articles at: TheInspirationalLifestyle.com

25 Comments

  1. pawan

    April 1, 2014 at 3:46 am

    I absoutly agee with u if your honest and have highest level of honesty..you become fearless..

  2. Moe

    February 23, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    This article just gave me some info that i needed for my paper. Thank you very much :) but i don’t think that some of the suggestion would go well for a boss that always wants you to agree with them.

  3. kausarbilal

    October 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    A very nice article with practical points to ponder and practice, but why the pic of Gandhi. It is a controversial figure. There might be people who don’t look at him in a way you do. So, wouldn’t it be better to chose blog image as the one that doesn’t repel people from your site or article?

  4. Raine

    October 17, 2013 at 9:13 am

    just got in this site today where i feel most hurt..it calm me down reading your article…

  5. Daniel Munro

    October 5, 2013 at 3:11 am

    Ah yes, honesty in the workplace when we don’t want to get fired!

    Such a mine-field right? However I truly believe that there is never a NEED for dishonesty, we just need to learn the appropriate METHOD to deliver our honesty. While the BEID model is very direct, there are other safer ways to express what you feel without getting fired. Sometimes we need a strategy for how to manage our managers

    I will write an article on how to manage your boss, and include some practical ways to express yourself honestly without risking your job, so keep an eye out for that one

    Of course I have to ask, if the job requires you to do things that make you feel guilt or shame, is it time to start thinking about a new path…?

  6. Marci

    September 23, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    I think this is attainable in your personal life, but not sure about professional life. I think it greatly depends on the work situation you are in. More than a few people have that boss that doesn’t want you to disagree. I’ll admit, that is a really unfortunate situation (and maybe not the right person is leading the team), but when survival comes into play….I’m sorry, but sometimes people need to keep their paycheck!

  7. William

    September 21, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    I just stumbled onto this site today. Love the article and the way of expressing feedback thru the BEID model. I love articles that hold up a mirror so I can check my way of being. I strive to be the change I want to see in the world. I will definitely be returning, thanks for sharing!

    • Joel

      September 21, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      Thank you William, I’m glad you found us :)

    • Daniel Munro

      October 5, 2013 at 3:04 am

      Thanks for the kind words William, and feel free to suggest further article ideas that will give you the feedback you need to be the rolemodel you want to be

  8. Titilayo

    September 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    could not finish reading this article but i must comment on the little i read,this article is so real and so motivating.Thank you.

  9. Ernest

    September 14, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    I really connected with this post!!! Thumbs up

  10. Jenifer Lamug (Jing-jing)

    September 13, 2013 at 3:01 am

    Salute Mr. Dan. Thank you for the BEID! This is another interesting article for me to improve my attitude. I must admit that i have an attitude problem sometimes.

    • Daniel Munro

      October 5, 2013 at 3:02 am

      Thanks Jenifer, the BEID changed my whole style of leadership! We all slip with our attitudes sometimes – self-awareness is the best we can hope for, so we change when we see ourselves slip

  11. ann tran

    September 12, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Thank you for the reinforcement. The goal is to live an authentic life.

  12. Cianna

    September 12, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    It was very well written. Seems like the battle of living with integrity is tougher to practice because most people around us in this materialistic society are being blinded what they think is way of living.

    • Daniel Munro

      October 5, 2013 at 3:01 am

      Indeed Cianna, but let us not blame them. We are raised by other people’s beliefs and not all of us are lucky enough to discover that we can change these. By living with integrity we can help others realise when they are not, and lead them to open their eyes to change and self-control

  13. Dan Munro

    September 12, 2013 at 3:18 am

    Thanks my friends, more to come! If you guys have any topics you’re interested in me writing about, let me know

  14. Caitleen Storm Elizabeth Chisolm Brown

    September 11, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Thank you Mr Munroe this article caused me to step back and observe myself! I am going to try this :D

    • Daniel Munro

      October 5, 2013 at 2:59 am

      Being honest with yourself is 10x more challengin than being honest with others, so well done you for taking that step!

  15. Carlos

    September 11, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Integrity is becoming inte-dirty, Not a lot of people wake up every day with a mind set to be like that. I seen many people that don’t respect the own principles; that bothers me. As for me i prefer to lose an argument and get something from it, but that is not the case for many people i know or work with.
    Since you are so good about writing about this topics i will be happy if you next topic is compassion. I manage bars and it seems that people that are low or have no compassion will justify selfishness no matter what.
    Integrity will represent compassion but will integrity exist if we do not have compassion for others??

    • Daniel Munro

      October 5, 2013 at 2:56 am

      Interesting point Carlos, genuine compassion vs pretending to care – great idea for an article! Watch this space…

  16. M

    September 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Along with one of your previous post and this, thanks for the good advice Mr. Munro.

    • Daniel Munro

      October 5, 2013 at 2:54 am

      No worries M, I’ll make sure to keep them coming

  17. Mr Ben

    September 9, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I must say a very big thanks to mr Dan, i love this article, God bless you.

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