Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Politeness of Lying

Every day, we face numerous choices – do I wear brown pants or black? Do I have cereal for breakfast, or do I want to make toast?

Sometimes though, the hardest choices require us to lie. Though I find, it is best to say nothing at all, rather than to bend the truth.

“We’ll call by the end of the week regardless of our decision to move ahead or not, just to let you know,” said one potential client last Monday.

It’s Sunday and I still haven’t heard anything – and I probably never will. The person told me a white lie, because she was too much of a coward to tell the truth.

I’m a coward too – but I handle things more professionally.

I don’t always call back someone I have no intention of doing business with – but then again, I never make promises I can’t keep. I just say if we’re interested, we’ll be in touch. If I am interested, I’ll call – if I’m not, I don’t call.

But I don’t string people along, telling them I’ll call, when in fact I have no intention of ever calling that person – that’s just wrong.

But sadly, the wrong way seems to prevail in the business world.

I can somewhat sympathize with this attitude. I remember a time not that long ago, when I felt obligated to tell someone that we had chosen another service provider for one of our systems contractors. I had worked for this contractor before, and as I knew the higher-ups, felt it was my duty to tell them the bad news. We chose the other contractor because the fit was better – we didn’t have anything against my former contractor.

Still, when I called and politely told them we went with someone else, they were about to rip my head off – thinking I had taken a personal swing at them or something!

I told them it wasn’t personal, and I don’t make all the decisions myself – there are some things out of my control. But still, the person on the other end of the phone acted as if they had expected to win the contract, simply because I had worked for them in the past.

It taught me a valuable lesson – some of us are poor winners, some of us are great winners, but most of us are pretty shitty losers.

Since this life lesson, I have learned when dealing with contract bids, to never make a promise to call anyone back – ever. I only say I’ll be in touch if we’re interested. They may follow-up with a “oh, but you can call us to let us know right?”

I’ll just smile and repeat the part about calling if we’re interested. They may hear it – they may not. But that’s the way the water falls.

It keeps me from outright lying and saying I’ll call, when in fact I may not. And it keeps me from having to take the brunt of someone’s temper tantrum, when they don’t get what they think they deserve – which in most cases is when you don’t get what you want.

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