In the world of business– and beyond, on a personal level – the concepts of honesty and integrity are often viewed as similar, if not interchangeable. However, based on my successful 45-year business career, I believe there are some meaningful contrasts worth exploring.

But first, let’s explore the deeper meanings of both terms.

Honesty is defined as being free of deceit and being truthful or sincere. In terms of behavior, an honest person does not tell lies; he or she always speaks the whole truth. Dishonesty, of course, is the opposite of honesty; a dishonest person lies, cheats and deceives others. Considered to be a moral virtue in many religions and philosophies, honesty shapes a decision-making process for determining right and wrong, based on the truth.

Honesty In Action

However, the quality of honesty alone does not mean a person has integrity. For example, imagine you are delivering a new car to its buyer and mistakenly broke the car’s cupholder. If your boss asked you if you broke the cupholder and you answer yes, you are being honest. But what if no one asks you whether you were responsible, and you tell no one that you broke it. You are acting dishonestly. Your silence is a deception. A person with integrity will admit the truth and act honestly in both scenarios.

Integrity (an ethical code) is a bit more complex. It is being honest and following a strict ethical code. The Oxford dictionary defines Integrity as the “quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” Exemplified by a person who always admits his or her mistakes, a person with integrity is trustworthy, consistent, and steadfast. If a person is acting according to an ethical code, he or she is said to have integrity. Integrity is usually based on learned principles.

Integrity In Action

Integrity includes selecting an ethical code and acting according to these guidelines even when it is difficult or inconvenient to do so. Again, using the above example of the broken cupholder, if you are a person with integrity, you would admit your mistake.

High Standards

In the final analysis, honesty and integrity are both crucial to ethical selling, but integrity embodies an even higher standard for conduct. However, I don’t recommend focusing on the finer nuances of these closely related words. Instead, I recommend that you act with integrity in business and engage in sales practices that display the highest level of character traits.

Ethics is Smart Business