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The Human Art of Networking: The 4th Gift – Honesty

We say ‘honesty is the best policy,’ but in our professional lives do we really mean it? The world of business is filled with polite smiles and promises that are more ‘crossed fingers’ than anything else. It would appear that honesty is not so much an absolute as it is ‘by degree’.

However, in business there are many opportunities to distinguish one’s self by being truthful. Whether by keeping your word or by being candid with others, honesty truly is an excellent, and advantageous policy.
Honesty impacts all the various realms of our business lives in substantially different ways. It’s not enough to say ‘don’t lie.’ We need to recognize that truth and candor can bring dramatic value to our professional relationships. We must embrace honesty with purpose.
Key #1: Be Honest about Your Human Self
There was a time when professionals were expected to represent themselves as perfect. But perfection has always been false. Today, in this age of increasing personal and professional transparency (thanks largely to the advent of social media) any claim of perfection would be viewed as laughable.
We are not flawless. We are human.
To embrace that fact with honesty makes you more approachable, likeable and trustworthy.
Key #2: Be Honest about Your Work
Most businesses have come to understand this. No single product or service, or even a collection of them, can solve all the world’s ills. Nor is any business without the occasional misstep. It is important to understand that.
In today’s hyper-networked world it can be dangerous to overstate one’s value. This doesn’t mean you need to highlight your weaknesses, just don’t claim more than you can credibly support.
This is where having a targeted collection of testimonials and success stories can be extremely handy.
Key #3: Be Productively Honest with Others
Candor can be a two-edged sword. Even with the best of intentions, an honest appraisal of someone’s work or opinion might be viewed as mean spirited. To be productive it is critical to find out how receptive someone might be to receiving honest feedback.
The only way to do this is to ask.
This is especially important if you are one who embraces ‘hard truths’. Recognize that many people – perhaps most people – don’t. But to find out if they are receptive, and to what degree, creates a fabulous opportunity.
Establishing yourself as one who gives productive feedback with an honest desire to help someone grow, solidifies you as a most treasured business partner.
Honesty is an excellent policy that establishes both your credibility and your value as a peer mentor. Embrace it!

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