At the end of last year, Pope Francis suggested it was an apt time to examine our conscience — yet it behooves us to do that more often. That’s not always easy but always vital as Todd Essig suggests, citing Peter Seeger and Martin Luther King. Acting with integrity “causes good things to find their way back to you, but it takes effort,” writes Frank Sonnenberg. Conversely, people who act untrustworthy “hurt themselves every day” by losing the trust of colleagues, customers, friends and loved ones – but we already know that at least intellectually.
What Sonnenberg provides in his book, Follow Your Conscience, are pithy points about 24 aspects of good character, suggesting exactly how adopting them enables us to enjoy a more meaningful, satisfying and successful life with others.
Sidestep the Slippery Slope Of Dishonesty
In our increasingly connected world our bad and good actions are more likely to become more well-known yet, even if they aren’t, must live with what we have done. And, as the author of The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Dan Ariely points out, stealing money out of a cash register can prick our conscience more than hacking into an online account. The lesson: We have more ways to slide down the slippery slope of deceit in a digital world and rationalize our actions so it behooves us to make a good conscience a top-of-mind priority.
Here are some of my favorite core truths from Sonnenberg’s timely book:
• Helping people with too much kindness only makes them helpless.
• Fair-minded people are true to their own beliefs without forcing them on others.
• “Bystanders” who do everything they can to get out of work are greedy people.
• Forgiveness reduces the offender’s grip on you and helps you focus on other positive areas of your life.
•When we turn a blind eye to poor behavior, we’re enabling it.
• Don’t view everything in extremes – as either fantastic or catastrophic.
• If two people are five steps apart, the best way to meet in the middle is for each person to take three steps forward.
Reinforce The Better Side in Each Other
While some of Sonnenberg’s pieces of advice may seem obvious (timeless truths usually are, once said) or overly optimistic, consider the benefits of acting and speaking to others’ positive intent, especially when they appear to have none. That may be your most likely approach to bringing out their better side — thus you’ll both be acting in good conscience. And when others like the way they feel when around you they are most likely to like you. Thus you can create a virtuous circle for acting in good conscience.
Spark Illuminating Conversations With Friends And Colleagues
As an advocate for specificity as a booster of clarity and credibility I really liked his three lists in the back of the book. Before you look at them, write down one-liner answers that occur to you and ask friends, family members or colleagues to do the same, discuss your answers with them — then look at those Sonnenberg suggests:
• 50 Things Money Can’t Buy”
• How to Lose Trust and Credibility
• How to Build Trust and Credibility