“A deep, great, genuine sincerity is the first characteristic of all men (and women) in any way heroic.”
One of the great myths today — perpetrated by several TV ads — is that if you find the “right” partner, you’ll live happily ever after. And in the business world, some people think if you just put the “right” people together, you’ll automatically have team work.
I beg to differ. It’s certainly easier to live and work with some people than others. But the true key to effective relationships is not in “finding” the right person or persons. The true key is found in “behaving” certain ways. I’ve talked about two of those ways in the last two “Tuesday Tips” — courtesy and consistency. Let’s address the third way today… which is SINCERITY.
In its simplest form, SINCERITY is all about saying what you think and meaning what you say. When you do that, a great deal of the stress is taken out of your relationships. There’s no need to read between the lines, second guess one another, or wonder how the other person really feels. It’s all out in the open… with no pretense, hidden meanings, double talk, or innuendo.
Anything less than SINCERITY is manipulation. While it may work in the short run, insincerity and manipulation never build positive, productive, lasting relationships. There are some things you simply should not say, and there are some things you should not do.
For example, in traffic court, don’t say any of the following:
* “Oooooooh, big, bad traffic court judge.”
* “What are you going to do, FINE me?”
* “I couldn’t stop because the coffee I was drinking would have spilled on the newspaper I was reading to a friend over my cell phone.”
* “Omigosh! Could you possibly talk any slower? I haven’t got all day, your honor.”
* “I was a little depressed that night, your honor. You know, the way you must feel about being a judge in traffic court.”
* “Your honor, when I entered the intersection the light was the color of this $20 bill, if you get my drift.”
Likewise, I would suggest that you never say these things in a job interview:
* “I dunno. What did I claim in my resume?”
* “Do employees get their own gun lockers?”
* “I like to think of myself as a secretary AND a poet.”
* “Am I correct… you are not allowed by law to ask me if I have a prison record?”
* “So, what games are pre-installed on your hard drive?”
On the serious side, relationships are built on sincerity. You’ve got to say what you mean and mean what you say. Alex Lubarsky of Woodmere, New York says, “My word is not a sail driven by the winds of circumstance; it is the stone on which they break.” Right on.
And when there is sincerity in your interactions, there will be progress in your relationships. Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav noted that many years ago. He said, “Know that anyone who deals HONESTLY benefits their associates from the beginning of the relationship, promoting fresh ideas as a result of the interaction. As they work together there is a willingness to learn new ideas and come together.”
Now I realize to some of you, the practice of SINCERITY sounds good in theory, but you’re wondering how you do it. I’m glad you asked. I suggest two things.
=> 1. Speak clear words.
Avoid “mush” language. Avoid phrases such as “Maybe… Perhaps… I’ll try… I’ll see… and… I’ll think about it.” People won’t know what you mean. Are you truly indecisive? Or are you lying?
For example, if I invited you to join my family for brunch on Sunday, and if you told me, “I’ll try to be there,” what would be the chance of you showing up? About zero.
When someone says, “I’ll try,” they’re almost always lying. What they really mean is “I don’t want to” or “I have more important plans.” On the other hand, if you had been truly sincere in your response, you would have given me a clear “yes” or “no.”
If you want to BUILD a relationship, you must BUILD it on the bedrock of sincerity. Anything less is sinking sand. Back in 1987, Robert D. Andrews wrote a great piece called the “Vocabulary Lesson.” He talks about what it means to speak clear words. Some of those words are…
NO I have learned to say NO without crippling guilt, or fear someone will be angry or not like me, or reject me. I no longer need to take care of everyone at the expense of my own health and welfare.
YES I have learned to say YES, allowing myself to let in pleasure without feeling I need to earn it first, or have everything perfect.
STOP I have learned to say STOP when my boundaries are being violated. I have learned that it’s OK and necessary to have boundaries.
NOW I have learned to say NOW to others and myself. I no longer need to wait until I’m perfect to start and finish projects. I ask for what I want. Someday is now.
You might ask yourself if you use those clear words often enough. Sometimes they’ll take a bit of courage to use, but they will exhibit your sincerity.
=> 2. Speak caring words.
Besides the speaking of clear words, make sure your sincerity includes the speaking of many caring words. I find so many people who are waiting for the “right” time to say certain things. They’re waiting for the right time to tell a teammate that they appreciate the extra effort he put into the project. And they’re waiting for the right time to tell a loved one that they love him or her.
If you have kind, positive, caring words in your heart or on the tip of your tongue, the right time to share them is now — not later. Tell your employee that you noticed how well he handled an upset customer. Don’t wait until the annual performance review to share your observations. If you wait until later, the employee will probably doubt your sincerity.
Verbalize your affection for a loved one. Don’t be like the misguided husband who said he loved his wife so much that he almost told her one time. And don’t be like the relative standing by a casket, telling everyone else what a good person Uncle Henry was. Tell Uncle Henry when he’s alive. It’s at the very heart of sincerity.
One poem says it quite well. Sorry, I don’t know the author.
I LOVE YOU NOW AND FOREVER
If you’re ever going to love me,
love me now, while I can know
All the sweet and tender feelings
which from real affection flow.
Love me now while I am living
do not wait till I am gone
and then chisel it in marble –
warm love words on ice cold stone.
If you have dear, sweet thoughts about me,
why not whisper them to me?
Don’t you know it would make me happy
and as glad as glad could be?
If you wait till I am sleeping
ne’er to waken here again,
There’ll be walls of earth between us
and I couldn’t hear you then.
So dear, if you love me any,
if it’s but a little bit
Let me know it now while living;
I can own and treasure it.
Yes, it will take a bit of courage. For some odd reason, some people find it difficult to speak words of caring. Perhaps they’re afraid of appearing soft, weak, or sentimental. So be it. Suck it up and speak courageous words of caring.
And yes, it will take a little bit of extra time to speak such words. I know we’re all busy. But you may need to get your priorities straight. Isn’t it more important to take time to speak caring words — to those who matter — than read your e-mail, clean your desk, watch that TV program, or organize the garage? The following story, “The Date With The Other Woman” says yes. Again, unfortunately, the author is unknown.
DATE WITH THE OTHER WOMAN
After 21 years of marriage, I discovered a new way of keeping alive the spark of love. A little while ago I started to go out with another woman. It was really my wife’s idea to do so.
“I know you love her,” she said one day, taking me by surprise.
“But I love YOU!” I protested.
“I know, but you also love her.”
The other woman my wife wanted me to visit was my mother, who has been a widow for 19 years. The demands of my work and my three children had made it possible to see her only occasionally. That night, I called to invite her to go out for dinner and a movie.
“What’s wrong. Are you well?” she asked. My mother is the type of woman who suspects that a late night call or a surprise invitation is a sign of bad news.
“I thought it would be pleasant to pass some time with you,” I responded. “Just the two of us.”
She thought about it for a moment, then said, “I would like that very much.”
That Friday, after work, as I drove over to pick her up, I was a bit nervous. When I arrived at her house, I noticed that she, too, seemed to be nervous about our date. She was at the doorway with her coat on. She had curled her hair and was wearing the dress she had worn to celebrate her last wedding anniversary. She smiled from a face that was as radiant as an angel’s.
“I told my friends that I was going to go out with my son, and they were impressed,” she said, as she got into the car. “They can’t wait to hear about our meeting.”
We went to a restaurant that, although not elegant, was very nice and cozy. My mother took my arm as if she were the First Lady.
After we sat down, I had to read the menu. Her eyes could only read large print. Reading through the entrees, I lifted my eyes and saw Mom sitting there staring at me. A noticeable smile was on her lips.
“It was I who used to have to read the menu when you were small,” she said.
“Then it’s time you relaxed and let me return the favor,” I responded.
During the dinner, we had an agreeable conversation — nothing extraordinary — just catching up on recent events of each other’s lives. We talked so much that we missed the movie.
As we arrived at her house later, she said, “I’ll go out with you again, but only if you let me invite you.” I agreed and kissed her good night.
“How was your dinner date?” asked my wife when I got home.
“Very nice. Much nicer than I could have imagined,” I answered.
A few days later, my mother died of a massive heart attack. It happened so suddenly I didn’t have a chance to do anything for her.
Sometime later, I received an envelope with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place mother and I had dined. An attached note said: “I paid this bill in advance. I was almost sure that I couldn’t be there, but, never-the-less, I paid for two plates — one for you and the other for your wife. You will never know what that night meant to me. I love you.”
At that moment, I understood the importance of saying, “I love you” in time, and to give our loved ones the time that they deserve. Nothing in life is more important than giving to your family. Give them the time they deserve, because these things cannot always be put off to “some other time.”
There’s no middle ground between sincerity and dishonesty. You can’t be a little bit sincere or mostly honest. You’re either sincere or you aren’t. Starting today, make sure you speak clear, caring words.
Action: When asked questions this week, practice giving clear “yes’s” and clear “no’s.” Avoid mush language.