Recently I had a scheduled meeting with a new potential business partner early in the morning, before normal business hours. I arrived at his office about five minutes early and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally I sent a text to see if he was okay. He called right back and said that traffic was awful and he was almost there. When he arrived, he complained further about all the traffic problems.
What he didn’t realize is that my smartphone shows local traffic. It is very accurate and timely. I had looked at it right before texting him and no traffic problems were reported. Even if there were some unreported minor traffic problems, that would not have been enough to make him more than thirty minutes late.
I’m pretty sure the guy just got a late start. He may have even forgotten our meeting. It happens. I would have understood if he had just said so. We’ve all done it. And if he had just said so, his credibility would have still been intact.
Sometimes we just screw up. Sometimes we screw up big time. When that happens, no makeup, spin, camouflage, distraction, or lie will cover it up. Everyone knows, whether they will say so or not. It’s a problem and sometimes a big mess.
I know that things don’t always go perfectly. No one is mistake free. What amazes me is the number of people, including so-called “business professionals,” who cannot admit an obvious problem or mistake. They try to cover it up or act as though it never happened. Or worse, they work to make it appear it was someone else’s fault.
Usually this is suggestive of self-esteem problems, fear, arrogance, or some combination of these issues. This is made worse by how we all naturally fool ourselves. Our way of thinking can actually lead us to believe self-created distortions of reality. It becomes our truth, even if it is not shared by anyone else. This does incredible damage to how much others will trust us.
This type of concealment behavior has become harder to pull off, especially for celebrities, politicians and others in the public spotlight. Technology has made it easier for the news media and the public to notice and expose deceptions. Interestingly, many times it is the cover-up that becomes the big problem, not the original issue.
The approach of concealing mistakes is not limited to those in the news. This problem is alive and well in everyday business deals and personal relationships. Just because the news media is not paying attention to you does not mean that everyone else is ignoring you.
Unfortunately, many people are more concerned about being right (or appearing to be right) than being successful. When we need to be right, often someone else has to be wrong. This is never a good way to build honest rapport or communicate value.
Honest candor about our mistakes is not only healthy, it communicates strength and leads to better opportunities and stronger relationships. And it is, in the long-term, easier than trying to cover things up. Sometimes there are just problems makeup is not going to cover.