We all feel those elements of confusion, disgust and anger when we realise we’re being manipulated. In our relationships, manipulation is seen as a very bad thing. If someone tries to shape your response by acting in a certain way or saying certain things, if you feel like that person is trying to ‘pull your strings’, there’s clearly a problem. You may feel as though you don’t really know that person, as if they’re two-faced and you’re unsure what’s really underneath. You can’t truly trust them.
The fact that manipulation is a bad thing seems obvious in our personal lives, but for some reason this thinking often does not seem to apply to business. In business we’re ‘allowed’ to fabricate reasons why people need our goods or services, even though in reality they most likely don’t. We’re ‘allowed’ to use all kinds of tools of manipulation; guilt, fear, exaggeration, confusion, parental instinct, appeal to our base human instincts — nothing is truly off limits. In most cases this is simply called ‘marketing’.
A typical business model allows and may even expect us to manipulate others.
- We manipulate by trying to convince people that they need things they don’t really need in order to make a sale.
- We manipulate by not being one hundred per cent up front about the costs involved in a purchase or the charges associated with our service.
- We manipulate by not being crystal clear about what exactly we are offering.
- We manipulate by making things look bigger or smaller or shinier or better than they actually are.
- We manipulate by trying to draw people into an arrangement where they have to do repeat business with us, even though there’s no good reason why they should have to.
If honesty is a personal value of yours, there’s simply no room for dishonesty in your business. There’s not one set of values for your personal life, and another for your work. Living a values based life means that your values run through, guide and shape all aspects of your life, including your relationships and your work. Trying to live your personal life with integrity while maintaining a business under a separate set of rules is confusing, exhausting and unproductive.
Maintain your honesty and your straightforward approach:
- even if it means you lose profits. It is certainly possible that if you do not attempt to talk someone into buying things they do not need, you may not make the sale. Be honest anyway. That person will take away something more valuable and that is the knowledge that there are still honest people out there, people who do not believe it’s okay to take advantage of others.
- even if it means you own up to mistakes. Don’t allow pride to get in the way of your values. We do all make mistakes, and your customers deserve the truth. Owning up to mistakes is one of the most powerful ways to gain a reputation for being honest and forthright.
- even if it means the customer is occasionally wrong too. There’s actually no point in trying to make the client in a business relationship feel as though they’re always right. This is a business strategy that has backfired over and over, and created very strained relationships between businesses and their customers. Besides this, it does not help your client. Treating a customer as though they can do no wrong is a subtle form of manipulation. If the customer is wrong, it’s okay to be up front about that.
Being so very honest, up front and transparent in business can feel risky. But the truth is, many people are drawn to honesty and humility in others. Customers feel secure when they know you can be trusted. They feel as though you will not do them wrong, and they are more likely to come back to you. Customers who trust you will also tend to feel loyal to your business, and will willingly recommend you to others. So honesty can in fact be quite profitable with the right kind of customer.
The wrong kind of client may not appreciate your honesty or care at all that you run your business with integrity. This is the same type of client who is looking for the bottom dollar at any expense to you, and this is the same type of client who you can afford to let go of.
The bottom line is, regardless of the success or failure of your business, living in harmony with your values means you are unwilling to compromise who you are as a person. When you are building a new business, you’re setting up the foundation for whatever your business will become in the future. It is true that the building can only be as strong as the foundation it is built upon. Don’t create your business on a success-at-all-costs foundation that does not align with what you believe.
If you value honesty, make honesty a founding principle in your business.