Be honest, are you transparent?

Last week I sold my car by advertising it as a private sale.

Two brothers turned up to view it. They were the first and were clearly very keen having asked for my assurance on many occasions on the phone that I will not sell the car until they came to see it.

In fact, they were so keen that I actually started to question the price I had advertised it for(!).

They kicked the tyres and we took it for a test drive. I knew there were certain things that already required repair. I also knew they probably would not pick up on these points.

If I told them, what if they were no longer interested in purchasing the car? Should I tell them, or wait to be asked? If they suspect the faults I will definitely be honest, that’s not lying right?

Honesty is being free of deceit; truthful and sincere when you are asked.

Transparency is being free of deceit; truthful and sincere before you are asked.

I know honesty can also mean being honest, before you are asked. But have you ever thought just how powerful transparency actually is?

The two brothers ended up buying the car, despite me telling them of the faults. Why?

When I told them about the faults quite openly, I empowered them. They had information they felt they didn’t have and were likely not to have.

When I am honest reactively, I know this builds trust. But leaves people questioning, why did I have to ask? What else do I not know?

The word ‘builds’ by itself implies it is not yet built.

When I am honest proactively i.e. transparent, trust goes a longer way to being built.

The same applies to companies. Some companies were selling Payment Protection Insurance (“PPI”) to customers who had already retired! How can this even make sense! They were sold an insurance product they would never make a claim on. These customers never asked the loan providers the question of whether they needed PPI and so they were sold it, bundled with the monthly repayments of the loan.

If a customer had asked if they needed PPI on their loan, in some cases customers were blatantly lied to. Some other loan providers were honest at that point and did not sell it. But the question had to be asked. Is this honesty?

What if companies were actually transparent? What if they said, hey, we could make money by selling you this product, but you know what, you’re not going to get much value from it so we would rather not. What happens?

What happens is you get trust from your customers, quickly.

In both our work and private lives, we should realise that being transparent is the highest level of honesty.

This highest level of honesty brings the highest level of trust.

And the highest level of trust in turn brings the highest level of loyalty.

Which business or individual would not want that?

I’ll let you know when I’m selling my next car…

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8 thoughts on “Be honest, are you transparent?”

    1. I agree with you that honesty is transparency in what you do. Honesty is rewarding yourself in the long term, its personal satisfaction, guilt free living most importantly personality development in the right direction. In the material world you have to pay big price for being truthful as it is going to hinder the path of financial gain as everyone knows money is one of the most important aspect of our living but at the same time dishonesty is going to kill you alive.
      Really speaking I am in favour of truthful living as it gives me personal satisfaction

      1. Precisely Randolf – what is the point of living dishonestly with stress and negative feelings just to follow the crowd. You can earn more money and have a less stressful life by living honesty. You will not have less money because people appreciate honesty so they will want you on their team. You just have to have faith that truthfulness is the highest order. Everything else is peripheral. Easier said than done I know, but I encourage you to try it.

  1. I think the issue is primarily to do with the capitalism based society we live in. The main motive is to achieve more means, whether that be money and or power or simply anything to put you ahead of others. Therefore, in this race to get ahead, many individuals become caught in this web of false happiness that allows them to justify their dishonesty. Simply convincing themselves that the means outweigh the cost, in this case would have been the sale of ones goods outweighs the value of honesty. Furthermore, I think capitalism has many of us convinced that those that are honest are fools; let alone being transparent. I personally don’t think this, but have seen my peers be ‘corrected’ on this behavior by their parents. The new motto seems to have become dishonesty is the best policy. Creating a world of anomie, where we do not know our neighbors, nor care to get to know them as we do not want to build a relationship. If we don’t have a relationship, we don’t need to worry about the authenticity of trust. And it’s even easier to misinform a stranger you may not see again.

    I have yet to read your other posts, but great work so far!

    1. Kimmy that’s a very interesting perspective and a very real one, thank you. We don’t know what a capitalism based society is until we start hitting perhaps our early teens. But even our education system teaches us that coming first in class is more important than helping your other class members to do better. We are in a race to get ahead and it starts early. But unfortunately, even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat. We are all in the search for truth. Whether that is on a worldly level of selling a car or being authentic to our neighbours or on a spiritual level – why are we here? Is it really just to win the race? Once we can step out of this thinking we can be honest, because the race is no longer important. The only way to change the thinking of ‘dishonesty is the best policy’ is to be honest. Not through words but through actions. Others will see your approach and realise the stress free life you live and want a piece of it. They will want to know how. So they will ask for your honest opinion…

  2. Congrats on selling your car! The fact that you were honest must have felt reassuring for the buyers.

    I love being honest. Knowing and acting in truth is empowering for both teller and receiver of the truth. But, the question of being truthful is mostly but not necessarily true. As you have probably heard of the case of ‘white lies.’

    In my ethics classes the following ridiculous example was brought up (as philosophy cases often are!).

    Your friend turns up at your doorstep and tells you that there is an axe murderer chasing him and goes to hide in your house. He asks you that if he comes knocking then tell him he’s not there. The axe murderer arrives at the door.

    What is the best option here? We reach a simple ethical dilemma as a duty not to lie conflicts with a duty to help your friend. Some Kantian theorists claim that you can only do one thing and tell him! Which seems absurd. But in not saying you are neglecting a duty of not being dishonest. In their defence, they claim that acting dishonestly cannot become universal law so it is unethical. Worse than neglecting a duty to helping your friend.

    Absurd but actually true.

    Thanks for sharing a great post!!

    1. Khalkinised thank you – what an interesting dilemma. If my friend came knocking on my door – I would choose to be honest by telling him that I am awfully scared and put him in my car and take him to the police station. Hence, avoiding the nebulous iniquity of the situation.

  3. This is interesting. I recently had the opportunity to sell my old car. Many faults had developed and it barely lasted one month before something else would go wrong. A nice guy turned up to buy it and fell in love with it. After he left I started feeling guilty and stalled on him while i considered the sale. During this period he upped his price by 10%.
    Ultimately, I did not sell it to him, but never told him of the faults.
    I am not sure what i would have done if i did not “like” the buyer.

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