This post is based on material from Dave Anderson’s book, How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK. It is the fourth post in a series of five in which we are addressing common character issues for leaders. The character issue we are addressing today concerns giving false impressions.
When it comes to business, giving false impressions is a broad topic. While not exactly full-blown lying, this behavior dances close to the line. As we will see, it can happen in so many different ways…
- advertising that makes customers think the deal is better than it really is
- exaggerating one’s degree of involvement in a project to gain undue credit
- leading a job applicant to believe there is more opportunity, compensation, etc. than is realistic
- downplaying the damage done by a mistake made
- deceiving a vendor to think you have a better offer from a competitor
- using flowery language to cover the truth
A humorous example is the description taken from a Youth Specialties illustration about a family history album in reference to the family’s “black-sheep” Uncle George. George was actually executed by the state for murder. Here is how the family history described it:
Uncle George occupied a chair of applied electronics at an important government institution. He was attached to his position by the strongest ties, and his death came as a real shock.
False Impressions = Lies?
When you look at the exact language used in giving false impressions, it is usually not difficult to find truth in it. Giving false impressions is not eliminating the truth or even adding to it in a way that turns it into a lie. Instead, it is masking or painting the truth in a way designed to change how it is received by someone else.
It is not the same thing as an outright lie. This is likely why most people guilty of doing it do not see the harm in it.
What Does The Bible Say?
In order to ensure we are staying true to Scripture in our effort to strengthen our character as Christian leaders, let’s see what the Bible has to say.
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech. – Psalm 34:13
This verse seems to clearly say we are to avoid deceitful speech. What exactly is deceitful speech? Let’s look at the following definition of deceive from Dictionary.com:
When you use this definition, it helps to clarify what we are to avoid…false appearance or statement. It is the false appearance part that trips us up most often. Whether by using language that misdirects or by omitting parts of the truth, we regularly face the temptation to give false impressions. Unfortunately, this behavior can destroy our witness as Christian business leaders.
Regardless of our reasons for giving false impressions, we must stop. It is this behavior that is one of the top reasons given by Christians and non-Christians alike when asked why they do not go to church. They give it another name – hypocrisy – but it is the same thing. Dave Anderson’s definition of hypocrisy is appearing to be on the outside, something you are not on the inside.
Jesus was hardest on the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. Do you not think it applies to us the same way?
Here are Dave’s tips on getting rid of false impressions:
- Stop any misleading advertising that you may be engaged in.
- Stop spinning the feedback you give to make someone feel they are doing better or worse than they really are.
- Stop misleading potential job candidates or employees about realities concerning their job advancement, compensation, etc.
Where are you weakest when it comes to false impressions?
Do you acknowledge this to be a problem?
What are you going to do to fix it?