Ethics and Morality in Selling and Marketing

When I speak to entrepreneurs as well as sales trainers and sales professionals I am often surprised that many of them do not know the distinction between “ethical behavior” and “moral behavior”.

Let’s explore this distinction not just in business but also in life in general.

 In a dominant group with a rigid world view rules of  ethical  thought and behavior may be strictly defined in ways that are clearly dysfunctional and oppressive.. However in an increasingly multicultural world it is harder for any group to remain isolated  and  dominant.  In  our  modern  (post – modern)  world  ethics  can  seldom  be  defined  in  absolute  terms.

In my view ethics is a personally defined system concerning right or wrong behavior. This is distinct from morals which is defined in by a system of right or wrong defined by a group or hierarchy.
It is generally agreed in most of the social sciences that morality is the study of what makes actions right  and  wrong. The distinction is not always clear and for some academics the words are synonymous. For most social scientists morality is the study of what  makes actions  right and wrong. Ethics, also known by some as “moral philosophy” is a branch of philosophy which addresses questions about morality. The word ‘ethics’ is commonly used interchangeably with ‘morality’ … and sometimes it  is  used  more  narrowly  to  mean  the moral principles of a particular tradition, group, or individual.
When making choices and deciding how to interact with others, ethical behavior is a reflection of a person’s intent to act, the a personal choice of what is right or wrong
Morality is a reflection of a group’s ideas of  what is right and wrong,  morality becomes the code of acceptable, functional behavior imposed on all members of the group.

As one creates a functional reality one soon learns to behave morally or one may be punished by the group. When one acts unethically he/she is essentially violating his/her own rules.

There are many theories concerning morality and ethics. The practical element  of  all  this for one creating a quantum reality can  become very tricky. There are , many elements one must explore including perspective,  duty,  obligation,  personal or cultural values, codes of conduct  and social mores especially when forced into an dysfunctional environment of ordinary thinkers.
In our new world of multi-cultural experiences rules, regulations, customs and laws are constantly changing,  as they are adapted to the particular times. For a person who is unclear about who they are and where they are, what  is good and right can be unclear as well. In a sense having an ethical code is more difficult than having a moral one since morality is often imposed upon us.

In many religious traditions particularly in Islam, Judaism and Christianity absolute ethical positions are based on  the  interpretation  of  supposedly  sacred  texts. In classical Asian thought this would be a foreign concept.  Three thousand years ago Taoist and Buddhist thinkers saw ethics in less absolutist terms.Religious values and morality are seen as synonymous by many people, particularly those who see themselves as deeply  religious. They are, however, not the same. Gay marriage, stem cell research, abortion, or  pre-emptive military  strikes  such as  that of the US on Saddam Hussein are highly controversial topics.

Different individuals with strong moral values might view each of these issues differently. One must explore and distinguish between many perspectives on what is or is not ethical.

The lines of distinction between various forms of ethical theory (meta-ethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics for instance) can be quite blurry. For example, abortion can be  seen  as unethical from a certain religious or spiritual perspective, but it is quite ethical when seen in relation to other issues such as rights of self-rule, scientific
definitions of when life begins, freedom of a woman to make choices concerning her  body, rights of the individual vs. rights of the state, the separation of church and state and the important questions  of  “where  do rights come from?”

and “what kind of beings have rights?”
There is a saying, ‘many of the roads to hell are paved with good intentions.’ If a person behaves with good intentions, bad things may still happen to others because of the choices they made. The question one must explore here is accountability versus forgiveness. Clear-cut as some ethical beliefs may be, ethics  of  an  act  but on the result of such behavior. This concept related to results of an act is called “ethical luck.”
Here is an example of ethical luck? Imagine a person robs a store with a loaded gun. This person  may  commit  the  act  knowing that they may shoot  someone  if  they  deem  it  necessary  but  the  robbery  takes place without a shot being fired. This might be considered no more than armed robbery no matter what the person’s intention may be. Now imagine  another  person who robs a store with an unloaded gun. This person may commit the act knowing that under no  circumstance  would they shoot someone. During the robbery, the store’s proprietor seeing the gun has a heart attack and dies. This might be considered manslaughter, even murder, no matter whether there was any intention to physically harm anyone. The act of robbery with a gun is obvious and in some courts of law may be seen as equally  wrong  in  each  case, but  its dependence on chance affects the level to which the person committing the crime is held  responsible. This is  ethical luck!

The concept of a culturally specific ethical and moral system was first addressed in the West in 1930 by W.D. Ross in his book, The Right and the Good. Ross points out, as the Eastern Sages did, that generally speaking, moral theories cannot address if an action is right or wrong but only whether it might be right or wrong according to a specific kind of moral duty such as fidelity, justice, fairness, or beneficence. To understand the Eastern perspective concerning ethics it may be useful to explore the Australian philosopher Peter Singer’s thoughts on what ethics is not. It is Singer’s position that:

  • Ethicsis not a moral code particular to a sectional group
  • It is not alist of prohibitions related to sexual behavior imposed by a religiousorder.
  • A so-called ethical system that is conceptually evolved and noble in theory but ineffective and repressive is unnatural     and possibly unethical because it is so unnatural.

Because  ethical standards can vary from culture to culture it is difficult to even speak about ethics in relationship to personal awareness, or  the concepts of enlightenment or self actualization.

It is a fact that what may be a rule of moral behavior in one culture may be seen as immoral in another. Each culture has rituals, symbols and myths that it holds to be sacred.  These often reflect the changes in the seasons and may be associated with sacred days and specific modes of expression and creativity.

Understanding another culture can be a complex and daunting task. Here are just a few unique cultural patterns.
• An individual is expected to hide illness from strangers.
• It is considered offensive for a male doctor to physically examine a female patient.
• At Oakwood Hospital in heavily Muslim Dearborn Michigan nurses are trained to turn Muslim patients’ beds towards Mecca.

However, no matter how the ethics and morality of a particular society may change, or how our individual experience of life may vary the behavior that brings one closer to self-actualization never  wavers.
In  its descriptive sense, “morality” refers  to  personal  or  cultural  values, codes of conduct or social mores.  There is no objective definition of right and wrong here. It only refers to that which is considered right or  wrong. Within academia this is known as Descriptive ethics. In  its  normative  sense, “morality” refers  to  whatever  (if anything)  is actually right or wrong, which may be independent of the values or mores held by any  particular peoples  or  cultures. It is a more absolutist approach in that it demands that one acknowledge that there is right and wrong in the objective sense. Normative ethics is the branch of philosophy which studies morality from this perspective.

In order to strategize in life one must understand concepts of right  and  wrong,  social  intelligence  and  personal responsibility. An exploration of any ideas related to morality and ethics is a valuable thing for it helps us to make the most effective choices.

Ethics in selling


Lewis Harrison is an author, motivational speaker, mentor and coach. You can reach him at

He offers stress management programs throughout the United  States and his corporate chair massage company, provides seated and chair massage for stress management seminars and trainings as well as to special events for event planners, meeting planners and meeting professionals in New York City at the Javits’Center, and in, New Jersey Las Veges, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Greensboro NC, Florida and other major meeting and conventions venues.

View a video of Lewis at:

His book “Spiritual, Not Religious: Sacred Tools for Modern Time” addresses important issues on human potential and personal development

How to say “No” to get to “Yes”

One of the great skills of a master influencer Is the ability to say “No” without undermining or destroying a relationship upon which they may depend upon.

Often circumstances arise where “No”, is the only effective response.

Maybe a superior or another influencer is making an unreasonable demand. A powerful opponent has lied to you and is demanding an unfair concession. Peers and associates want you to assent to an unwise, unethical, immoral or illegal strategy. You are pressured to say yes, even though you know you need to say no. To say no is likely to create unpleasant conflict and struggle. There may even be unpleasant consequences if you say no.

An effective leader must learn to address inappropriate or abusive behavior of the rigid, one-sided demands of superiors, clients, associates and peers who expect that you will accede to their demands without opposition. Often they will refuse to take your point of view into consideration and have no interest in any agreement that is not completely on their own terms.

The ability to deal with demanding behavior, especially the behavior of those who try to take unfair advantage of a personal or professional relationship is a powerful skill.

The skilled influencer knows how to say no to problematic pressures, demands, situations, behaviors, and situations through the use of constructive engagement rather than destructive conflict.


There are four ways to answer “No” to a request.

  1. Ignore the request (Avoid)
  2. Give them what they are asking for (Accommodate)
  3. Say “No” and state that it is final (Attack)
  4. Say “No” for now and give them an opportunity to ask again at another time or negotiate now. (Agreement). This approach allows you to assert your needs, and engage in a positive, proactive, and respectful engagement. In the end if both players are rational and emotionally balanced the end result is likely to be and equitable agreement that meets the needs of both players.


In #3 “No” is not used to end discussion but rather as a path to “Yes” as you subtly shift  the perceived power balance in a relationship. It is not enough to be willing to negotiate. In all relationships especially those involving negotiation there is always a power imbalance. Sometime this will be obvious but often it is subtle. Until the perceived power imbalance is addressed there is unlikely to be a successful result. Thus it is fair to say that you can’t get to yes without first getting to no: “no” to their behavior and “no” to their demands. In the early stages of any negotiation you are likely to be confronted with contradiction, paradox and ambiquity.

There are a number of core events that will take place as this process unfolds:

  • Successfully defending your interests in relationships.
  • Say “no” when it is the best response and do so in way that allows you initiate a productive interaction.
  • Control your emotional responses,
  • Understand and manage your reaction confrontational and bullying behaviors and tactics.
  • Use the aggression and momentum of an opponent to manage the situation.
  • Use positive confrontation to promote negotiation.
  • Hold your position without having your opponent feeling attacked by your doing so.

Saying no does not need to lead to a destructive outcome. Saying “no” can be a constructive tool that is productive, powerful and positive.

There are a number of elements that come into play in this process. Here is a basic rundown of these:

  • Your Emotional response: Sense memory, cellular memory, and your own emotional history can open the door to old patterns driven by anger, fear and guilt. In order to master the art of “No” you must learn to maintain emotional balance while not reacting to the emotional reactions of others.
  • Defining your needs: By understanding your own values, articulating your purposes and separating your wants from your needs you an take the next step, crafting a strategic story.
  • Bring all players to the same level: If you are not on the same page as an adversary you cannot know when to say yes or no. The key here is to see whether they are playing a zero sum game where someone wins and another loses or a game where everyone can win?
  • Disarm the other side; Don’t make statements, ask questions. This is a powerful tool for disarming an adversary, especially one with strong influencing skills but less information than you. In addition by listening to what they say and how they say it you can determine what you will be willing to concede. Master influencers have taught me that you don’t have to give an opponent what they want but it is useful to give them something.
  • Offer a positive no: If you explain why you are saying no in a way your opponent can relate to you can turn less into more and define firm “non-negotiable” limits.
  • Ask for yes: If you understand how you opponent thinks you can offer them an option that they may say yes to or at least hold off on responding to you request to a later time.
  • Resist manipulation: Do not respond reactively to an opponent’s anger, denial and anxiety. Respect and acknowledge how they feel without agreeing or changing your position in response to how they feel.
  • Use and respond to influence: Differentiate between warnings and threats. Have them see their position through your eyes. This will help bring them to their senses without bringing them to their knees.
  • Make the deal, heal the relationship: Know when you have hit the end of the road and negotiate for completion. Be flexible but never give up your core essentials. Seek the higher “yes”.

Q & A on The Art and Science of Competition

One of the reasons I love studying applied game theory is that it helps me to explore various competitive behaviors and examine how to use them to improve the quality of my life but also the lives of others.
Most people define competition as an act that is motivated by the desire to win.  In its least productive form, all competition is seen in adversarial terms. Of course it goes much deeper than this. If we taught healthy competition to children the world would be a better place.

Here is a Q & A session I did in a master class I taught called “Make Choices, Not Excuses”. I offer this class monthly in Stamford NY. The next program is Sunday August 30 1-4 PM


STUDENT: Is it really necessary to compete?  Wouldn’t a person who thinks in visionary terms transcend this need?
LEWIS: Possibly.  Many experts believe that humans are hard-wired to compete – that it is something we are genetically inclined to do.
STUDENT: Why is this so?

LEWIS: Once we are earning more and possess more than we need to survive, all wealth becomes comparative.  Even so, we exert great energy into competing with others and getting lost in a frenzy of consumerism.  It is not an exaggeration to state that when faced with more than one choice, all living creatures act the way in which they perceive and/or believe to be in their best interest.  If Darwin’s concepts of natural selection are correct, then we are inclined to make status and influence-based choices as a means to reproductive success.  There may be something in us that says, “Having above-average status, income, influence, and power will increase the odds that we will attract a more desirable mate and help our children and those in our primary group (tribe) to have a comparative advantage in relation to peers.”  Once we earn more and possess more than we need to survive, all wealth becomes comparative.
STUDENT: So we are competitive as an expression of our self interest?
LEWIS: Yes.  So much so that at times these status-driven choices may appear to be illogical, irrational, nonsensical and just plain wrong to others.  Nevertheless, the choice will be made based on self-interest.  Often this choice may relate to the fact that humans have hierarchal tendencies. Thus, what may seem like an irrational choice may be totally rational when seen through the eyes of a person seeking power and influence. Much of NLP and Tony Robbins work integrates these ideas.

STUDENT: Is everyone in the world competitive?
LEWIS: I would say “yes” but not equally so, and certainly not for the same reason. When you are on the path to self actualization you tend to feel less tension between your fundamental needs and your short-term wants, thereby reducing the number of things you would feel the need to compete for. If you do not know who you are, then your wants and needs are often at war and it is therefore natural to measure your success by comparing yourself to others.  So let us not act too quickly in condemning competition.  It all depends on who, what, why and where concerning the competitive behavior.

STUDENT: What is the positive side to competition?
LEWIS: A healthy, balanced, competitive perspective allows a person to assess their relative ability to survive compared to others.

STUDENT: How many suits or cars does anyone really need?  Most of the time life is not a zero sum game. If there is only one slice of pie and ten people want it, the smartest of the bunch will simply go out and buy or bake another pie and sell it to the other nine people. Competition seems pointless in a prosperous, expanding culture – especially in a culture where a person could theoretically master your Nineteen resources (NSR). What is the point other than what you say might be natural law?
LEWIS: In times of plenty, your point is a valid one.  And I agree that most of the time life is not a zero sum game (see A Conversation on Zero Sum Games).  However, in times of great scarcity, a moderate amount of competitive thinking can be quite valuable. By noting how our peers or superiors are faring in the natural economic cycles of abundance and scarcity, we can assess the minimum amount required for our own survival.  In abundant times, competition also helps us to define how much of a surplus is really necessary to store in reserve for the future.

STUDENT: Can you speak further about scarcity, competition and the concept of natural law?
LEWIS: In times of abundance, surpluses are irrelevant.  In times of scarcity, it is hard to know what is enough.  Each of us sees the world differently.  Our perceptions control the calculations we make to determine “enough.”  They may seem quite reasonable, sensible, and rational, but they are also reinforced emotively, and with a different intention than what might seem logical.  Understanding this, it makes greater sense to see that it may actually be more natural for us to compete than to live a life free of competition.  Some researchers believe that we may be genetically pre-disposed to a type of group behavior where it is essential to track the wealth of others and then compare it to our own level of wealth.  Such a practice might serve as a far-reaching means of assuring self survival in the face of unknown future shifts and changes in the group dynamic, particularly in relationship to hierarchical behavior patterns (see A Conversation on Hierarchal Behavior).

STUDENT: What other Conversation in Lewis Harrison’s Applied Game Theory might help me to understand the concept of competition more effectively, and even make me a better competitor?
LEWIS: See A Conversation on Assessments.  Concerning survival, the ability to recognize patterns has been invaluable as a tool in the cognitive arsenal of human beings, especially in relation to competition.  Strong assessment skills can help you to recognize these patterns.

STUDENT: Being competitive seems like a highly stressful way to live life.  It is as if something bad might happen to us at any time.
LEWIS: Interestingly, competition is not always an unpleasant affair.  The ability to laugh at yourself and others helps you to function under stress and under the pressure that competition can bring.  From an evolutionary perspective, the pleasure that comes with laughter has encouraged the development of pattern recognition and other unique perceptual and intellectual abilities in human.  However, competing with others is a potentially problematic situation.  On the darker side, this type of competitive thinking makes us pay excessive amount of attention to the superficial possessions, wealth and status of others as a reflection of our own wealth, success, talents and accomplishments, rather than paying attention to our real needs.

STUDENT: Can you go into greater depth concerning the ability to recognize patterns and creating a sense of psychological security?
LEWIS: Let’s say that you can afford to buy a new boat, take a vacation to Europe, or install a home entertainment system just as your neighbor can.  Being able to afford the same things may give you a sense of psychological security that comes with knowing you can compete with them economically, whether or not you need to do so at the present time.  Now, were financial stress to arise, you would have the sense/knowledge that you are equally capable to handle it as your neighbor.  If you have an understanding of the concept of conservation and balance, this will be a realistic perspective concerning your sense of security.
STUDENT: What if you do not have an understanding of the concept of conservation and balance?
LEWIS: Ultimately for such a person altruism is irrational and competition is the highest ideal.  Keep in mind that what is presently your surplus could easily become a deficit should uncontrolled external factors such as war, a banking collapse, a stock market melt-down, a mortgage crisis, severe inflation or a recession arise (see A Conversation on The Four Primary Types of Obstacles).  If you do not plan for unexpected occurrences, then you may expect the worst to happen.

STUDENT: Can you speak about competition in relation to hierarchal behavior and status?
LEWIS: In order to live the best life possible, we must accept the notion that everything we do can be judged against others.  At times it serves our best interests to make these judgments.  How we compete as members of a larger society influences our survival, success and failure.  Paying attention to those in your group or in the larger society that are in an equal or slightly higher position than us in the hierarchy (what is commonly called the pecking order) is an affirmation of the wisdom of choices we have already made in relation to our short-term and long term survival.

STUDENT: Is there a way to combine a spiritual approach to living while remaining competitive?
LEWIS: Yes.  If we don’t completely immerse ourselves in a journey to inner wisdom, a journey defined by meditation, introspection and altruism, then the need to constantly compete and compare will imprison us.  It is true that we all live in relationships of one kind where we are destined to judge and be judged in relation to others.  Even so, “every man for himself”, though an effective strategy in the short term, is a highly ineffective practice for living well over an extended period of time.  Ultimately, you end up living in a predatory environment that alternates between a zero sum game  and economic anarchy.  This attitude towards people and life is a dark place to reside.

Fortunately, any one person’s judgment does not define our happiness, fears, failures, successes, access to love and ability to survive.  These arise from our intention, clarity of thought, emotional balance and our ability to interact effectively with individuals and groups of individuals as competing and supportive members of a larger society.


Lewis Harrison’s next “Make Choices, Not Excuses” Seminar will be held in Stamford, NY on  Sunday, August 30 from 1-4 PM. Call for details at



Lewis Harrison is an author, motivational speaker, mentor and coach. You can reach him at

He offers stress management programs throughout the United  States and his corporate chair massage company, provides seated and chair massage to meeting planners and meeting professionals in New York City, New Jersey Las Veges, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Florida and other major meeting and conventions venues.

His book “Spiritual, Not Religious: Sacred Tools for Modern Time” addresses important issues on human potential and personal development