How to Build the Character Trait That Boosts Confidence, Respect, and Likeability
“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” — Alan K. Simpson
Evernote is one of my favorite digital tools, but over the last months, I developed some serious trust issues.
Not because they leaked my data and my email address got flooded with an avalanche of Nigerian princes trying to move inherited millions out of the country. The issue was far simpler. They offered me a one-time discount on the premium version — then showed it to me again another 17 times.
If Evernote was a human, it would suffer from massive cognitive dissonance, the stress you feel when you said you were going to work out, be on time, or get up early, but don’t follow through. When you aren’t the person you claim to be, it paves the path for a career in politics but also makes you feel bad about yourself. So what’s the antidote?
Integrity. It’s simple — it means you do what you said you were going to do and act in line with who you claim to be. This makes three things happen.
You boost your confidence because when you do what you said, you increase trust in yourself.
You gain respect from yourself and others because you stick to your ideals and values even in times of adversity.
You become more liked because people know you’re authentic — even if they don’t like your views, they appreciate the what you see is what you get.
Integrity is a superpower, especially in a world full of lying politicians, contracts full of fine print, and two-digit reruns of one-time offers.
Here’s how you can develop it to set yourself apart.
This Is Why You Shouldn’t Compromise Your Values for Sympathy
We all know someone who swims with the tide because they’re afraid of drowning if they don’t.
Instead of sticking to their values, morals, and ethics, they adopt others’ opinions like an orphanage abandoned babies. They’re like a ship without a rudder — you can’t rely on it because the wind blows you wherever it wants. Nobody wants to be on a ship if they don’t know where they’ll end up. You don’t want to be on that ship, either.
You need clarity on what drives you — your core beliefs and values.
This makes you confident in yourself and your path, even if it means you have to swim against the stream.
I believe in taking responsibility for your life, hard work, and apologizing if you did wrong. This doesn’t just set a standard for my behavior, but also for what I expect from others. Sticking to your own rules is a huge source of confidence and respect.
Integrity means you make decisions based on your values instead of personal gain, no matter how tempting it might be.
“One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.”
— Chinua Achebe
How to Avoid Misconceptions, Ambiguities, and Broken Promises
Even though most children learn to speak when they’re about one year old, adult communication often resembles plugging a cable into a USB port — it takes a lot of turns and twists to finally get a connection.
These misunderstandings can cause tons of trouble both in our professional and personal life. NASA lost a satellite due to issues converting from the imperial to the metric system. My girlfriend and I spent hours waiting for each other because we mixed up the times. If you want to do what you said you were going to, make sure your communication is clear and unambiguous.
- Set the stage and speak with intention
There’s nothing more annoying than someone rambling without telling you what they’re talking about — or why the fuck they’re sharing the story of the pizza place with the long-haired waiter named Josh who’s got a limping Chihuahua that… Wait, where were we?
Be clear about your intention, whether you figure out a time to meet, talk about your department’s numbers, or decide what you want for dinner.
- Be authentic and communicate your thoughts
Here’s an obvious fact most humans forget all the time: Other people don’t know what’s going on in your head. Share what’s on your mind and how you feel instead of hoping they’ll read between the lines and get the message.
- Be empathetic and ask for others’ opinion
Communication is a two-way street. Don’t blurt out your opinion and leave. You’ll save yourself the embarrassment of renting heavy lifting equipment when all the other person wanted to do was bird-watching.
- Wrap it up
This has been an absolute game-changer for me. After a lengthy discussion, I recite the main points and ask the other if that’s what we agreed on. You get brownie points for empathy and consideration and also eliminates most misunderstandings.
The clearer your communication, the more aligned your actions.
“It’s dreadful what little things lead people to misunderstand each other.”
― L.M. Montgomery
Keep Your Agreements — Both with Others and Yourself
Integrity boils down to “do what you say” — but this isn’t always easy.
My neighbor has a friend who raises the bar of being late to a whole different level. She once rang the doorbell at 4 am when she wanted to be there at 6 pm. Her excuse? Things took a little longer.
Her constant lateness doesn’t come from not owning a watch, but from an inability to say no. She’s too nice — and sometimes too disorganized — to tell people she can’t make it. She isn’t the only one.
If you’ve found yourself stressed out with commitments you can’t keep, here’s what you need to do.
Sometimes, you have to be realistic
When I was younger, my frequent visits to all-you-can-eat buffets taught me a valuable lesson about the human psyche: Most people bite off more than they can chew. They also put more on their plate than they can bite off.
I know it’s tempting to agree to every opportunity or request that comes up, but you have to be realistic about your time and energy. My rule of thumb is to always plan a 20% time buffer for all my commitments.
Don’t overload your plate and you won’t have to throw away the leftovers.
Achieve more by doing less
Most of humanity suffers from the profound misconception that more is always better.
Faster cars, more colorful screens, longer movies, fancier shoes, and bigger boobs. But for what? You only have 24 hours a day and there’s only so much you can do.
In The Power of Less, author Leo Babauta advocates the idea of accomplishing more by doing less. The popular 80/20 principle takes the same line. Focus on what’s most important and let go of the rest.
Do less, but do it properly — your integrity will skyrocket and others will love you for it.
The most powerful two-letter word
Saying no can be hard, whether your dog looks at your food with puppy eyes or your friend asks you for help moving a 100kg wardrobe from one end of the town to the other.
It makes you uncomfortable. You feel guilty for denying your help. In a weak moment, you agree because saying no makes you feel bad.
But do you know what’s even worse? Promising your dog the treat and your friend your lifting skills and then letting them down. Both would be better off if you’d been honest in the beginning.
Say no more often — there’s nothing to gain from an empty promise, whether to others or yourself.
Wrap-up for More Integrity
We’d all like to be more confident, respected, and liked by our peers. Use these three simple steps to become a person of integrity, do what you say, and be who you claim to be.
- Get clear about your views, values, and opinions and stand up for what you believe in
- Communicate clearly to avoid misunderstandings
- Keep your agreements both to yourself and others
And please, stop advertising one-time offers and last-time discounts if you don’t mean them. You might gain a few customers, but lose all credibility.
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