Do You Give False Impressions?

false impressionsThis 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.

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

false impressions

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:

  1. Stop any misleading advertising that you may be engaged in.
  2. Stop spinning the feedback you give to make someone feel they are doing better or worse than they really are.
  3. 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?

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  • I think this is a tricky area. I’m in public relations and marketing, so this comes up a lot. I’m certainly not in favor of lying or deceiving people, but I think sometimes this can be taken too far. I’ve worked with people who stressed the negative, as if they were worried about protecting themselves in case a customer were upset.
    To me, it’s not bending the truth. It’s not about deceiving. But I do believe in portraying the (actual) positives of something and showing people the benefits. I don’t downplay the negatives, but I’m certainly not going to boost their importance.

    • If it were not tricky, I would not be addressing it!

      I am in the car business and we certainly do a lot of advertising. Our industry is well-known for misleading ads, especially the bait-and-switch. While many reputable dealers stay away from blatant lies in their ads, it is still easy to slowly creep closer and closer to the line (and over).
      My point is that we cannot just blow this off just because “it’s just advertising…everyone knows that!” and not treat it with caution (not saying that is your position!). We must remember we are held to a higher standard.

  • Michael Dodaro

    The difference between hype and faith seems a matter of intent.  I was sold by a lot of hype about body building and sports when I was a kid and bought some ideas that were not true. The guys in the magazines were taking steroids and a bit out of their minds anyway, but the baloney got me started on a lifetime of exercise that now at nearly 63 years of age is still paying me back way more than I wasted on Joe Weider’s protein powder.  Hard to figure, but sometimes the intent of the user is as important as the intent of the seller.

    • I like that example! And I agree that your intent put you on a good path, regardless of the less-than-honest intent of the sellers.

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Michael Dodaro

    Second thoughts on the previous comment, Chris.  I admire your intent in even discussing issues that are endemic in our system and pushed out of sight by business people.  After fifteen years in the software industry, I wish more people, especially managers would confront dishonesty in business.

    • Thanks Michael!

      If more business owners would confront the dishonesty, then more managers would care as well. Unfortunately, most managers/employees are simply following the leader.

      I believe the problem boils down to timing. The choice is made daily whether to take reward now or have faith it will come later. Do I go for the physical reward I can touch immediately or do I trust God for reward He promises later?

      It is not an easy decision if you are not prepared for it. It is a no-brainer if you are.

  • Businesses feel justified when they use the “political campaigns” underway as their role model… How much easier it would be for the voter and consumer, if truth was the standard whereby decisions could be made. Think how media advertising would have to change. Consumers and voters today are skeptical even when the truth is clearly in front of them. But that offers no excuse for Christians to redefine the truth. Thanks Chris as a customer told me recently, it was so refreshing doing business with your company because of the atmosphere and openness and truthfulness I felt! That defines a “win-win” exchange that honors God! Thanks Chris!

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