I once heard the Chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association speak. She said a lot of insightful and inspiring comments but one sentence really stood out. Stacey Allastar said, "Never deal with liars, cheats and jerks." It seems like a no-brainer but it is important enough for her to articulate, even at her executive level.
At the core, all are manipulators who value their interests above others'. They exhibit a desire to get ahead, gain advantage, avoid the undesirable. These master manipulators seem to have a fast-pass to success and power – at the unfortunate expense of others. They know how to play the game. They know what to say to your face and behind your back. Maybe I am a purist and naive, but I would rather act with integrity than constantly watch my back.
However, duplicity, politicking or Machiavallianism do not need to underwrite success and power. They can just be achieved via influence and leadership, bringing people together rather than pinning them against one another or breaking them down.
As I type, I am reminded of advice ESPN commentator Tommy Smyth also told me: "Surround yourself with good people and never tell a lie, you will never have to remember anything." It takes less effort to tell the truth, and your facts are already confirmed. When you and those around you act with high morals and integrity, you are protected against vulnerability. You work together to achieve common goals, for the common good. You support one another. You listen to others' needs, perspectives and feelings. You are authentic. So the best way to deal with liars, cheats and jerks is to just not. If you cannot change the environment around you then change the environment you are in.