Ask The Ethics Guy – How Do I Sack A Social Commitment?

I invited a co-worker over for dinner. What was I thinking?! We don’t have much in common and the whole thing will probably waste more time than be fun.

I’ll just sweep it under the rug. But is that the right thing to do?

Here is how I rationalize:

“Of course it’s okay to not follow through on this dinner commitment. It just doesn’t feel authentic. At least I remember what I said and did not forget about it. I do honor my word, but this time I just made a bad choice. At least I’m honest with myself about not keeping it.”

It still feels awkward. Maybe it’s time to ask the Ethics Guy for help:

(Yes, I’m much better at rationalizing than acting out this question.)

Promptly, Dr. Bruce Weinstein a.k.a The Ethics Guy a.k.a Bloomberg BusinessWeek Online’s Ethics Columnist Author has an answer for me. Note: The quality of my homemade video was too bad to include in the episode and my name is not really Julie (but I really did send the question).

Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D. has appeared as an ethics analyst on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Anderson Cooper 360… and here he is answering my question! Or yours – just upload it to YouTube and send the link to bruce [at] What a cool idea.

My new-found heroes Erhard, Jensen and Granger also call out my delusion:

First of all…

“It doesn’t feel authentic” is not an excuse to break a promise.

What it means to choose authentically is different than what it means to rationalize to a conclusion. Webster’s Dictionary defines choose as: “to select freely and after consideration”. Note that the words are “after consideration”, not “based on or as a result of consideration”. Quoted from this course material


Honoring your word means keeping your word and keeping it on time. If you can’t keep your word, you must say to everyone impacted

a. that you will not be keeping your word, and

b. that you will keep that word in the future, and by when, or,
that you won’t be keeping that word at all, and

c. what you will do to deal with the impact on others of the
failure to keep your word (or to keep it on time). Quoted from this course material

So what’s the moral of this story?

When in doubt, ask The Ethics Guy.
If you have a question, record it on video, upload it to YouTube and send the link to bruce [at] Go Ethics!

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