JS Tip 159: From the Ethics Workshops: The Case for Honesty, Part II

Last week, we talked about how honesty really is the best policy (despite arguments to the contrary).

We suggested, “If you’re not comfortable answering a question, be honest and say, ‘I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable answering that question.’”

Several honest and forthright folks wrote in and suggested, “Wait a minute. That answer itself implies guilt. Subterfuge. Guile.”

We agree. But we also suggest the answer shouldn’t end there.

Just last week, we saw an excellent example of questions being unanswered and well-handled.

Florida Special Prosecutor Angela Corey announced her findings on the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman investigation at a press conference.

She repeatedly—repeatedly—said, “I'm not going to answer that question” or “We can't answer that question,” and she'd provide a short reason for her refusal: “Answering would violate constitutional protections . . . .” (or whatever).

She complemented her non-answer with her reasons.

We could say something like “I'm not comfortable answering that question because too many intellectual-property issues are at stake” or “I'm not comfortable answering that question because other people are involved, and I haven't received their permission.”

All too often, we think we have only two choices: answer the question or lie. Whoops. Nope. There's a whole lot of other—honest—options available.

If you have questions, comments, or arguments, let us know. We love this stuff.