I am a big believer in integrity. I am a woman of faith who knows that words are important. It’s important that you know that before I relate the following story.
Several years ago I worked in what was essentially the unemployment office through a temp agency. I worked there for about a year and a half, and enjoyed much of the job. I did encounter some interesting people during my time there. One in particular has been on my mind this morning.
A man came in to apply for some openings in a security agency. As part of the application process for these positions you had to answer some what-if scenarios. They were fairly standard questions along the lines of: You notice someone carrying something bulky out of a plant. What do you do? This particular man came to me and told me he couldn’t answer the question. I asked him why. He told me he was a pastor. I told him I respected that, but I didn’t understand why he couldn’t answer the question. His answer was that he wouldn’t lie, and if that’s what it took he was fine with not getting the job.
I tried to explain that they weren’t asking him to lie; they were asking him to think about what he might do if he found himself in that situation. He told me that he wasn’t in that situation and wouldn’t lie. I tried several different ways to explain this to him. He just kept arguing that he wouldn’t lie, even if that meant he wouldn’t get the job. He got more and more stiff-necked, until I finally told him that if he couldn’t bring himself to answer the questions it didn’t make any sense to turn in the application. He left with a rather smug nod of his head.
This man was so focused on his “I won’t lie” line that he was incapable of listening to anyone else. He had dug in his heels. It cost him a job that, from his story when he arrived, he really needed.
I’m not suggesting that anyone should compromise their morals or values. What I am saying is that it’s important not to get so caught up in your own line of discourse that you miss the point someone else is making. It might just help you out.