Integrity, trust and credibility are big ticket words. They play out in our lives, for each and every one of us, every day. Whether we realise it or not. The degree to which we demonstrate them through our actions as we move through life has massive implications for our long term quality of life and relationships, often far beyond our ken.
In countless interactions every day, we demonstrate our integrity, our credibility, and trustworthiness. Likewise, we gauge others’ integrity, credibility and trustworthiness. As these choice points arise, big and small, as relationship moments unfold where we showcase how we will choose to behave, so in turn we strengthen or weaken our social bonds of trust, safety and security. From the smallest level in our personal lives to the level of society and international relations.
Integrity. From the Latin, integer, meaning whole or complete. It relates to honesty, truth, to one having a sense of morality, to living by a set of principles. Having a moral code or compass and living by it, no matter what. Consistently. When we make choices in accordance with our values. Irrespective of whether anyone else knows about our choice. When we say it about someone, we comment on an aspect of their character; this trait is usually highly regarded.
Credibility comes from the Latin also, credere, which means to believe. It literally means we are believable – we are what we say we are, what we appear to be, we can be expected to do what we say we will do, and not to what we say we will not do.
Together, integrity and credibility form part of the foundation for our character, the central defining structure at the core of our personality. When we mess with either, we cause hard-to-repair damage in other people’s’ trust in us, in their sense that we can be counted upon. In our relationships.
What most of us don’t realise, however, is the greater impact that lack of integrity has on our own sense of who we are – on our own perception of and relationship with ourselves. While we might think that lying to other people, not following through on our commitments, or misrepresenting ourselves in various ways are about discrete moments in relation to other people and situations, these have a far greater, long lasting and damaging, defining impact on our personal sense of who we are. We begin to believe our own self-serving version of ourselves and drift farther and farther away from a reality-based capacity to see ourselves accurately as we truly are and as others experience us. When we repeatedly lie, bend the facts, omit important details, and fail to carry out our undertakings, this gradually erodes our capacity to face and deal with reality as it really is.
Those who continually misrepresent themselves, lie, and do not reliably act on their promises end up distorting their own grasp of reality, seeming to lose the capacity to appraise facts as they actually are. They also develop a distorted, unfounded and often inflated sense of entitlement. It could be argued that the current presidential situation in the United States is a case in point.
In the intimate arena of personal relationships, lies, affairs, secrets, and repeated failures to deliver on agreements and commitments undermine the very fabric of our relationships. Our partners, families, friends, colleagues gradually lose trust in us and this loss represents a significant cost to our ability to build secure, mutually beneficial and supportive bonds in all areas of our lives. As our untrustworthiness progresses to betrayal, our kin pull back, protect themselves around us and restrict what they share with us. In time, people leave our lives.
While you can fool some of the people some of the time, no-one can fool all of the people all of the time. Once the people in our lives begin to track patterns of lies, lack of integrity and credibility, their willingness to extend themselves for us begins to be pared back and they withdraw. In time, we lose their trust and with that, any capacity to leverage credit of any sort with them. In breaking the social contract of fairness and mutual trust, we undermine the foundations of every relationship in our lives.
In our modern times, relationships based on trust are everything. In commerce, everyday transactions involving money, credit, and exchange of goods rely on some sense of trust. We expect that another will deliver on their commitments. They rely on us to do the same.
When we treat the relationships in our lives, intimate and not, casually, when we undermine the fabric of trust that underpins them, we effectively sabotage ourselves and our future. Trust enables people to risk, to invest in one another. Mess with that, and the consequences are dire in the longer term. It has been wired into our brains that we need one another for survival. The member of the tribe that betrays that trust is eventually seen as unsafe for the others. Their capacity to call on others falls away in line with their demonstrated lack of credibility. In time – they are cast out.
If you are or have noticed that your personal and or work relationships seem to be less satisfying, you might check in-
- How reliable is your word? When you say you will do (or not do) something, do you deliver on that?
- When you don’t deliver on your undertakings, what do you do about that? Is there always an excuse? Do you find it’s usually other peoples’ fault (in your mind)?
- How willing are you to take responsibility when you don’t deliver?
- If/when you let someone down, do you apologise? How well do you make up to them for letting them down? You will know this by how willing (or not) they are to trust you again.
- What are the accusations people make about you? Is there a theme that suggests some people find you lacking in integrity, in credibility?
Finally, if you conclude that you really do have a credibility problem and you’re ready to do the hard work of (re)building your integrity, call me. Let’s get to work.