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The Boston Globe

Business

Etiquette at Work

Sincerity helps build collegial relationships

I’m hearing a lot about sincerity these days. People seem to toss the word around easily, but they may forget that it applies to them just as much as it applies to other people.

On Wednesday, I heard Representative Paul Ryan, the former Republican vice presidential candidate, speaking on the “Morning Joe” program on MSNBC. Commenting on President Obama’s recent get-togethers with Republican congressmen and senators, Ryan questioned Obama’s sincerity. “Was the so-called charm offensive a temporary poll-driven political calculation,” Ryan asked, “or a sincere effort to try and bring people together?”

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What is sincerity, and why does it matter so much?

At the Emily Post Institute, we have always believed and taught that sincerity is critical to building relationships. You can have the best manners in the world, or be as charming as all get out, but if you’re not sincere, it counts for nothing.

If people believe you, they’ll have confidence in you. And if people have confidence in you, they’ll trust you. When they trust you, you can work together to accomplish goals, solve problems, and move forward. Relationships are built on trust.

Trust takes time to build, but it takes only one mistake to lose it. If trust can be regained at all, the rebuilding process can take longer than it did the first time.

Back to the president and Ryan. If the recent get-togethers are simply a political calculation, then, definitely, the president’s motives can be called into question. If he’s not believable, the opposition will lose confidence in him and he will lose trust.

Of course, the same could be said of Ryan and the Republicans. Only by being sincere can Republicans or Democrats begin to build the trust necessary to make the deals they need to make.

Business people face the same challenge. The ability to build strong positive relationships is at the core of a person’s success. You don’t get considered for a contract, job, or promotion unless you have the requisite skills. But in the final analysis, your sincerity and ability to establish trust will be a deciding factor.

Ryan is right. Sincerity matters — to establish trust, move forward, and eventually get things accomplished. If you’re going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to
etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.
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