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MOMENTS OF TRUTH
by Jim Will, Ph.D.

Moments of truth are pivotal, crucial points at which a relationship is judged, based on something one partner in the relationship sees or hears or experiences. If your partner in the relationship is doing the judging, these are instances in which you have the opportunity to prove yourself to your partner and impress him or her either positively or negatively.

There can be several moments of truth:

  • Indifferent
  • Negative
  • Positive
  • Ultra-golden

This is equally true for personal and business relationships. What are these moments of truth? Well, if you plan a lunch date with a friend and then don't show up, that's a moment of truth. If your spouse asks how your new job is going and, just as you start to respond, your spouse cuts you off and says, "Oh, by the way, did you see that there's a sale on at the discount mall?" then that's another moment of truth. If you're a student having trouble understanding a particular concept and you ask your teacher for help and he or she says, "You'd understand if you paid more attention. Go home and read the book," that's a moment of truth.

On the other hand, if one of your relatives has been in an accident and is in the operating room and your friend puts his or her plans on hold and comes to the hospital to be with you, that's a moment of truth. If you have been laid off from your job and one of your ex-employees sends you flowers on your first day at home alone, that's also a moment of truth.

There are varying degrees of success in relationships. Some are awesome, some good, some mediocre, some terrible. Where do your relationships fall? You might have some business relationships that are excellent, some friendship relationships that are good, and some family relationships that need definite improvement. Or it might be the other way around. It's important to think about the state of your relationships and plan to improve those that are in trouble.

The way you treat people you don't expect to see again or those who have no way to respond to your treatment is revealing. How do you treat the hotel doorman, the maid who collects your trash, or the taxi driver?

I was scheduled to present a seminar for a hotel, and the hotel invited me to have dinner there. I had planned to have dinner with my sister, so I asked the manager if my sister and her date could join me. All the hotel employees were told that Dr. Will was coming and to be on their best behavior. As it happened, my sister and her date arrived before I did, and the employees, thinking that this was Dr. Will and his wife, rolled out the red carpet. Their treatment of my sister and her date was impeccable. When I arrived a little bit later, no one knew who I was, and they treated me just as they would any other customer – no special notice and not particularly good service.

Strive to treat everyone with whom you come in contact with respect and dignity, not because you never know who they might turn out to be, but because it's the right thing to do. The Golden Rule applies here.

In a business organization, there can be literally thousands of these moments every day, and they affect the customer's perception of your business. The customer's perception, of course, is the most valuable thing possible for your business. You might know that you've got the best situation for the customer, but your perception doesn't really count in this case. The perception of the customer is the only perception that counts.

Again, it's not your perception that counts. The perception of  how others see you is going to outweigh any perceptions that you might have, even if you know yours are based on truth. We tend to judge ourselves by our intentions, but others judge us by our actions. How do others see you? How do you want others to see you? How do handle moments of truth?

There are many moments of truth for your relationships, both positive and negative, and your relationships will be judged on the basis of your behavior in each situation. Make as many of your moments of truth as you can positive or ultra-golden.