Our ability to read another's credibility or trustworthiness can only be honed if we know how to unmask the façade and see the true self. Only then can we avoid falling prey to the Bernie Madoffs of this world.
Confucius taught his disciples to triangulate their observations: Look closely at another's aims, he taught, and observe the means by which they pursue them; then examine what brings them contentedness, and their real character cannot be hidden from you.
Is the aim to make a quick buck at the expense of others (referring to citizens as Confucius teaches about government)? Then examine how the person got there. Did he or she arrive by dishonest means or perhaps through currying favor with superiors? Then investigate to see what brings contentment. Is the person happy helping others and doing good deeds? Or is he celebrating after having cheated others while benefiting himself? These three inquiries will accurately guide our perceptions before placing our trust in people.
It is perhaps rare to find someone who is totally untrustworthy in every way. For instance, a person may be scrupulous with time -- always punctual -- but untrustworthy with money. This information may be useful if you're looking to hire a driver who doesn't ferry money to the bank.
On the other hand, some men may be trusted with money but cannot behave properly in the presence of women. Yet other people may have no ability to keep secrets, in which case a job handling classified information would be a total misfit.
While we may hope for and expect all the fine qualities in a person we're choosing as a friend or spouse, when we look for the right person for a job, what's most imperative is determining if the person has all the qualitative values to fit the job prerequisites, so that he or she can be entrusted to execute it with integrity and honor. That's why selection based on academic qualifications alone says nothing whatsoever about a person’s character or potential conduct. And it's why meritocracy alone as a criteria for selecting leaders or staff is dangerously flawed. As proof, we only need to look at recent banking disasters, insider trading prosecutions, and off-label drug marketing scandals.
In choosing a diamond, one examines the 5 C’s: certification, carat, color, cut and clarity. When selecting people for jobs in government (which Confucius refers to), or as leaders of nations or organizations, there are also criteria to apply. The five C’s then would be character, conduct, compassion, conscience and conscientiousness.
We should not choose based only on a transcript or computer printout. Instead we should aim for due diligence that will really determine whether candidates for office or for jobs can be trusted, and if so, what can they be trusted with?
Confucius has provided guidelines by which we should measure ourselves and others. The discussion continues. . . .
Dr. Henry Wong Meng Yeong can be contacted here.