Over the past few weeks, the newspapers have been delving into the subject of lying. The Mueller investigation has resulted in criminal charges for lying to various folks (FBI, Congress, Mueller and his folks). Books have been written about lies and lying. The truth is, we all lie. When someone asks, “Do I look okay?” We often answer (in fact, if the Barometer’s data are correct — it is 87% of us), in the interest of being kind, “Of course.” Even when we do not believe our friend, family member, or co-worker does indeed “look okay.” That type of lie, often called the white lie, is not motivated by malice or intended to deceive. We do not speak what we truly believe because of our concern for the other’s feelings.
Yet, we have not spoken aloud what actually went through our brain. Therein lies the rub. We wear down our ability to speak the truth, and we chip away at the conscience that spurs us on when we need to tell the truth.
Sometimes we are accused of lying, but we really have forgotten the truth and just spout what we believe to be the truth. Again, there is no malice, but what we have done is still misleading, We will eventually be confronted with, “But you said this,” or “Hey, you told me this!” In that careless moment we have compromised trust and set up an incident that will be long in the tooth when it comes to what others remember about us and our actions.
Rather than trot down these two difficult paths of rationalization, use alternatives. When the Barometer seeks a spousal opinion on appearance, the spouse of 42 years responds, “Do you want the truth or do you want to feel good?” If there is not a 42-year relationship whose terms include tolerance, humor, and heavy doses of reality, make a suggestion about appearance that causes you to believe that the person does not “look okay.” “Let’s get that spot out.” “Maybe we could press the jacket.” These phrases offer some signal that sends folks back to the mirror for a more introspective and a rethinking of reality.
Sometimes, generic advance suggestions head off the need for the “okay” appearance evaluation. For students who are headed into interview season, we sit them down and show them what will make them look okay before they are headed into the one-on-one, If we wait until the day of their interviews, we face of choice and saying, “Lose the 15 bracelets,” or sending them into the interview with a lie and unshaken confidence because we do not want a last-minute discussion of the dangling bangles. Topics of discussion in advance generic session include tight clothes, short skirts, shaving, footwear.
For the second “lie” of misremembering, before spouting answers, learn some phrases to clarify your certainty, “I believe this is what happened, but let me check.” Or, “I am not sure, but I may be able to look back through my e-mails.” Or, “I don’t know.” Warning: That last one is tricky. If you know, but you are saying “I don’t know,” then we are back into lying territory, and probably with intent. The same with, “I don’t recall,” or “I don’t remember.” If you truly do not recall, you have spoken the truth. If you recall, but do not want to answer, then you have a lie. See congressional testimony of James Comes for 245 times of saying one of the following: “Don’t know,” “Don’t recall,” and “Don’t remember.”