November 14, 2006

Living with integrity - guest article by Sarah Robinson

Grownups Behaving Badly: A Case for Living and Working With Integrity By Sarah Robinson, Hot Pink Success Coach© 2006 Hot Pink Success Coaching

Three events happened to me this past week and inspired this article. The first happened when I was in the drive through line at Burger King. As I was placing my order, a car whipped in front of me in line. I calmly got out of my car and told the driver that she broke in line. She replied that she had called in her order that since there was a space in line, she took it. When I pressed the issue, she used a few expletives and invited me to a physical fight. I politely declined and simply asked that she use nice manners. My husband says I was lucky I didn't get killed.

The next event happened as I was leaving my son's school. The back entrance is on an alley and a woman stopped traffic in the alley as she stopped her car, popped her trunk, and got out to deposit her trash in someone else's trash can.

Did I mention that the alley is one-way? This is important because the very next day, a dad brought the entire traffic flow to a grinding halt as he came barreling up the alley the wrong way. Everyone in line had to back up to accommodate him.

Is it me, or is that just plain Bad Behavior? Would any of these people be pleased to see footage of themselves on the evening news? Do they not know this is Bad Behavior or do they honestly believe that the rules don't apply to them?

To me, the opposite of Behaving Badly is Behaving with Integrity. So that I could write a meaningful article on the subject, I wanted to be sure I was clear on the definition of integrity, so I looked it up in Webster's Dictionary and here is what it said:

Integrity:–noun1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character, honesty.

Now I don't know anyone who would argue that living and working with that definition of integrity is a bad idea. As a matter of fact, I bet the three people whose behavior I witnessed honestly believe that integrity is a firm part of who they are. So,then, where does the slippery slope happen?

I believe it happens when
1) We haven't concretely defined our core values and principles
2)We think "just this once, it's okay",
3) We see a shortcut to get where we want to go and the thought of getting there in a faster, better, smarter way overrides our better judgment,
4)We don't think anyone (or anyone "who matters") will see us or
5)We find a way to cleverly twist our principles to fit the action we want to justify taking.

This last one is the most dangerous. How much damage has been done, for example, by comments preceded by "I just want to be honest"? Some people use this to justify unleashing a torrent of unnecessary, hurtful observations. Hiding behind the value of honesty is a real desire to be unkind.

Here is a personal example of how I got myself on the slippery slope of living out of integrity with what I say is matters to me. I want to teach my son to be patient with others and I tell him that this value is important. But has he ever heard me yelling at a car that won't "GO!" because my personal agenda and schedule are so terribly urgent? You bet he has. He even asked me about it once. "Mommy, why are you yelling at the lady in that car?" Nothing like having your integrity called on the carpet by a four-year-old!

If any of these observations are hitting home for you, you aren't alone. Do a quick Google search on Living With Integrity and you'll find pages and pages on the subject. Everyone knows it is important and yet struggles to do it. I've put together a few quick tips that I hope will make it just a little easier:

Tip #1 If you haven't already, define your core values and principles. Whom do you admire most? What values do they embody?

Tip #2 Have a conversation with the important people in your life about core values and principles to live by. Let them know you are trying live in line with your core values. Ask for their help and support. If they call you on something, try not to get defensive. They may see something you don't.

Tip #3 When you slip up - and you will, we are only human - clean it up as soon as you can. Apologize if at all possible. If it is not, make a note to do better next time.

Tip #4 If you are faced with a choice about something that is in a gray area, use the Nightly News Test. If you were seen and heard on the nightly news doing and/or saying the thing that is in question, would you be proud of your behavior? Would it be in line with who you say you are?

A mentor of mine long ago told me that if I am living with integrity, I will know it because who I say I am, who others say I am and who I am are all the same person. It's another way of saying "live so that others won't have anything bad to say about you" - even if it's only the lady behind you in the school drop off line.

WANT TO REPRINT THIS ARTICLE? You may, as long as it remains intact and you include this complete blurb with it: Sarah Robinson, Hot Pink Success Coach and founder of Hot Pink Success Coaching and The Hot Pink Revolution, teaches Mary Kay Sales Directors how to reduce the stress of their career, increase the profitability of their Mary Kay businesses and find time to have fun and live the life they desire. For free tips on creating an extraordinary business and an extraordinary life, visit

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