You know what it looks like: the school chum or colleague who suggests catching up for a coffee that never happens, the prospective romantic partner who says they’ll call but doesn’t, the acquaintance who asks how you are but doesn’t actually care to hear the answer.
What is it?
In 1888, the Russian physician and playwright Anton Chekhov wrote: “There should be more sincerity and heart in human relations, more silence and simplicity in our interactions. Be rude when you’re angry, laugh when something is funny, and answer when you’re asked.”
Words have much more power than we realize. Expectations are often shaped by what people say to us. When a person’s actions don’t match their words, real problems arise and we start to question their sincerity.
I’m someone who holds sincerity very dear; I would rather be told that my company is no longer wanted than to be ignored. Why? Because being ignored or being fed platitudes makes me feel like I don’t matter.
I try and be upfront about this with people; after all, it’s my responsibility to be honest about what I need from others. But even this doesn’t always work, which makes it even more hurtful when I am left to interpret the difference between someone’s words and their actions in my own way, without the benefit of hearing how they really feel towards me. Being trusted with the truth means that a person at least acknowledges me (even if they may not like me) and there is no room for confusion.
Perhaps not everyone feels this way, and I’m not advocating for unleashing one’s innermost vitriol upon others, but I think we underestimate how important sincerity is.
Maybe that’s because we currently live in a world that perpetuates insincerity in a myriad of ways.
I’ll never forget that scene in the film He’s Just Not That Into You (I confess I’ve not read the book) where the guy and the girl swap numbers (he initiates) but his contradictory words mean there is confusion about who will call who. When the girl tries to clarify he fobs her off. She tries again with the same result. The premise of the scene (and the entire film) is that she should learn to interpret such non-committal responses as the guy just not being into her.
I hope that I’m not the only one who has stopped to ask themselves why she has to learn to interpret such confusing and misleading behavior in the first place? After all, why did he ask for her number in if he never had the intention of calling?
It’s not just men who do it. I know women who give out their number but when the guy calls she just ignores him.
When did this become okay? And why do people do it?
Essentially, people are insincere because it’s the easier option. Confrontations and rejections can be difficult no matter which side you’re on, but this shouldn’t absolve us from being honest. Good communication is based on a message being delivered as well as received. You can’t expect someone to receive the message you want them to when you’re telling them something different.
Insincerity breeds insincerity. This is why it’s become socially acceptable to say to someone, “Let’s catch up” or, “I’ll call you,” when both know there will be no follow through.
But the opposite is also true, too. A little sincerity goes a long way in encouraging others to practice it in their relationships. It’s all about breaking the habit of taking the easy way out. Maybe this starts with the small step of telling yourself that it’s okay to be honest. It’s perfectly okay to say, “No, thanks” when someone asks for your number.
It’s perfectly okay to let someone down gently if you’ve had a change of heart about your relationship (either romantic or platonic). It’s perfectly okay to meet someone in the street and not offer to catch up as a way of filling the silence or ending the conversation.
The truth is, you save everyone a lot of confusion and discomfort by being sincere in these simple ways from the beginning; because sooner or later someone is going to call you on what you say—that empty offer to babysit you made to the neighbor means you just might find yourself being asked to watch the kids—but the real reason to be sincere is simple: no one likes to feel deceived or unimportant.
Photo credit: Push Advocacy