Integrity (glossary entry)  

Integrity as a Personal Attribute

An important concept related to many of the other topics in this glossary is integrity. With regard to tasks, actions and commitments thereto (see priorities), "integrity" is used in its more common meaning (roughly synonymous with "reliability and honesty").

To put it another way, a person "has integrity" if they do what they said they would do. Saying one thing and doing something else, or not saying anything, diminishes integrity.

So, integrity comes from the combination of statement and action, reflected upon the person as a perception of character.

Nature of the Statement

When a person says what they are going to do, regardless of the amount of certainty they may have about its liklihood, they are speaking about the future. The statement they are making is a prediction — is has no inherent truth or falsehood — until either it comes to pass, or is eliminated from possibility by the passage of time or by some contradictory outcome.

Despite their speculative nature, such statements are a valuable part of teamwork and accomplishing goals. See the priorities article for more on this topic.

Perception by the Self

There is a part of the self that is responsible for self-image, or self-esteem. One's perception of one's own integrity is a part of this.

Unfortunately, that part of the self is very simple-minded. It does not understand the complexities around why a given effort was or was not successful. It only understands whether the statement and the action were in agreement.

When they are in agreement, the combination is perceived as personal honesty. This is a positive reinforcement to self-esteem.

When one's statement and action are not in agreement, then one's statements are perceived by oneself as being unreliable or dishonest, and that is a negative reinforcement.

The important thing to know about positive and negative reinforcement is:

It takes ten positive reinforcements (of equal magnitude) to balance out one negative reinforcement.

This is the "ten-to-one rule" familiar in experimental psychology.

Because of the ten-to-one rule, one's personal reliability/honesty self-image will suffer whenever the number of goals that is met is less than 90% of the number of goals that are predicted.

Perception of Integrity by Others

A similar simplistic perception exists in one's assessment of others. Because of this, when a person says they will do something, and then actually does what they said, they are perceived as having been reliable or honest — because what they said agreed with what (eventually) happened. When the action or task does not take place as stated, the person is perceived as "unreliable" or "dishonest".

The ten-to-one rule applies here too — any failure to keep one's work has to be balanced out by ten successes (or equal perceived magnitude) in order for the person's public image to remain at the same level. Their image can improve only if they are making more than 90% of their stated goals.

See also Goals and Priorities.

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