Being a prey of bad-faith is no stranger to most of us. Personally, there was nothing that would prompt my rage and aggravate my self-confidence more then discovering that someone had tricked me. I have learned, however, that anger and disillusion make simply bad strategies, and found out other ways to leap triumph sincerity.
Bad-faith, or lack of sincerity complicates human relations; it comprises our personal values and those of a whole society. Thus, not easy to address and, yet, important to confront. What its bad-faith? What in everyday is referred to as lack of sincerity or lying, bad faith is a state of mental incongruence, lack of lucidity and lack of self-esteem. In the bad faith there is always a hidden intention, a conscious desire or motivation, which we think we cannot achieve if we express it directly or openly.
Have you ever come across a person that justifies its actions using excuses that are incoherent? That avoids giving arguments and deflects your questions or bursts into aggressiveness when you’re close to understanding the truth? How often do you hear people saying “I swear, sincerely speaking …, just to say the truth …,” only to discover that all that was a lie?
Typically, a bad-faith person will do everything to defend its excuses, and save face… and this may bring casualties!
Hence, if we decide to confront the bad faith, then, we need to clarify WHY – are we confronting bad-faith:
- What interests are at stakes?
- Is the relationship at risk?
- What resources do we have to confront the bad-faith person (time, power, money ..)?
Having clarified the WHY, we can then choose our approach.
I want to share with you two approaches that I’ve found useful: the save face and the daring sincerity. The 2 approaches have in common a fundamental communication skill: Active listening, which is about respecting the sequential order of: Observing – Listening – Reframing – Expressing our thoughts.
Where they differ is the GOAL.
“Save face” approach.
We choose the “save face” approach when we want to:
- Discourage the other person in pursuing his/her fake approach for achieving the real objective.
- Verify and ascertain that the person is being insincere.
- Save face of the other person.
When our purpose is not only to dissuade but also to preserve a sound relationship with the other person, then we shall go one step further and deploying the approach of “Daring Sincerity”. This builds on the “save face” approach, and takes it further to uncovering the real, hidden objective. How can we apply this in practice?
With the “save face” approach, we are a kind of “lutenant Columbo”.
- Initially we pretend not to understand, and ask for clarifications
- We analyse arguments or excuses for traces of incoherence. When incoherence is qualified,
- We invite the other person to elaborate on the logic of his/her excuses – up to the point where newly improvised excuses become un-defendable, and the other person gives up and reveals the real objective.
- And then we hear .. “ok, ok, I did not tell you anything about the exam, because the result is bad, and I don’t want you to limit my time out with friends… ”
In applying this approach, three skills come to play: able to play the naïve, capable to challenge the coherence of the excuses, and be persistent.
What I have learned is that this approach requires a state of mind that combines force and empathy, a good dose of self-respect and certainly a good dose of compassion for the other. Finally, the good results emerge when giving up the real objective does not become as a drama and when the other person can save face.
When our purpose is to preserve a sound relationship with the other person, then we shall go one step further to uncover the real, hidden objective. Bringing the discussion at this point means that you:
- Make an objective demonstration of the existence of the real, hidden objective.
- Pursue a discussion to connect and align on the value that each side puts on the sincerity in the relations.
- Propose and establish a new way of communicating.
Most of the people stop at demonstration of the objective, and blow up relationships. We would use this approach depending on what you believe to be the aptitude of the other person for accepting a stretched out hand, and the pact of sincerity it contains.
In brief …
Some may believe that “man is a wolf to man”, but there are approaches that can help dissuade bad faith and re-establish relationships on a good-faith bases. Managing bad faith is a talent that can be developed – it takes only little knowledge, some know-how and – a lot of presence and consciousness. I talked about 2 approaches – the “save face” and the “daring sincerity”, where the first one simply saves face, while the second one gives new blood to a relationship. Smooth and non-intrusive as they may look, these approaches are an investment on sustainable relationships.
Not all investments give a return, but taking the risk of applying such approaches is all about self-respect and a better world.