An argument for honesty

Of course, there are an overwhelming number of arguments for the virtue of honesty. But I thought this one should have some extra attention called to it.

I live in Seattle, where discussing anything that could potentially, possibly rub someone the wrong way is simply not done. Silence and discussions of things like Seahawks and rain are preferable to discussing anything that may produce a disagreement, let alone a simple difference of opinion.

One of the most startling things I’ve observed in the six years I’ve lived and worked in Seattle is that even living here during two presidential elections, I’ve never once heard a political discussion in the workplace.

When I lived in Wisconsin, people discussed politics all the time – sometimes in heated exchanges. But at the end of the day, those people always ended up grabbing a beer (that’s just what they do in Wisconsin… don’t believe me?)

And that’s where I think honesty could help us all. People are afraid to be honest for any number of reasons: don’t like confrontation, afraid of saying something that will destroy a friendship, don’t like to argue, fear of losing a job or friend, etc.

But one of the beautiful things about honesty is that once everyone knows where everybody stands, it’s much easier to find common ground.

Bernie Sanders is a Socialist. He’s not afraid to say it.

Ted Cruz is a Conservative. He makes no bones about it.

But they both want to improve this country. They both want to help the poor. They both want better educated people. (I know supporters of one of the two probably don’t believe that about the other, but I’ve always been naive this way…)

Isn’t it much easier for Ted Cruz to go to Bernie Sanders and lay it out that while they have entirely different methodologies, they both want to solve these problems? Once that’s done, the discussion about how to solve them will be much more productive than if they lie or speak in half truths.

It’s a lot harder to be productive in problem solving if you don’t really know where members of your team stand or what they really think. There’s also a good chance they may be holding back or afraid to put forth their real idea.

If I could make a few changes to the Pacific Northwest culture (and I think I have, to some degree, for the teams I have managed), I would encourage people to share their views and ideas, and I would make sure they were rewarded by receiving thoughtful consideration and an earnest discussion of their merits.

Live is so much easier, and a lot more fun, when we’re all willing to share real thoughts and ideas with each other.

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2 Responses to An argument for honesty

  1. Jason Colberg says:

    Jon, Living here even in Lake Forest Park near you I think the reason people don’t talk politics around here is that this is a progressive town. Not picking on anyone here, but in my opinion because progressives currently control the system (and I believe lose any forthright discussion) they see themselves as better off, retaining control, by eluding discussion. Not 100% on this, but it certainly seems plausible. ~ Jason (Colberg)

    • Jon says:

      Hey Jason. I hope the fact that I used a political analogy doesn’t distract from my point. I don’t think it’s just progressives. I haven’t heard any conservatives talking politics in the work environment, either. (Unless I’ve never worked with a conservative, which I doubt.) My point is more about fear of just sharing opinions. It was often pulling teeth just to get some in my teams to share their opinion on the direction we were going or the work we were doing. But over time, I think I broke through by rewarding them for sharing their thoughts.

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