It was a question I asked the other day on another blog. The comment challenge asked people to give their opinions of whether people are consciously or unconsciously criticized for telling the truth. Does it seem telling the truth is only good for children's books but is unrealistic in "real world" work life?
I started the conversation by sharing how I was received when I told the cashier that my produce was organic after she began ringing it up conventional. But as the online conversation unfolded, I began to think more about the topic of lying, and then something else happened:
My 4 year old lied to me.
It was a flat out lie. Naturally I was upset. But it also prompted me to ask "who taught him how to lie?" He is 4. He doesn't have the intellectual prowess (though other parents might argue against that point) to understand what a lie is. Then it hit me.
Lying is the most innate and primitve form of self preservation.
A child makes a split second choice to either be honest or not. A child isn't the only one who makes that choice. The choice is based on trying to preserve him or herself from harm.
As this conversation about lying at work unfolded on and offline, some people were quick to condemn it as wrong in general, but then simultaneously gave reasons why in small cases lying was ok.
Why telling the truth sucks
1. It takes effort
Afterall, who wants to go through all the stress of trying to filter our toungues before it unleashes its venom? Who wants to try to figure out how to preserve another person's feeling? That takes effort. Lying is easier.
2. It puts you face to face with our flaw.
We tend to judge others on their actions but expect, and at times demand, that we be judged on our intentions.
"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings by speaking so abruptly."
"I didn't intend for any of this to happen."
I've said those phrases hoping that the other person would somehow let me off the hook (self-preservation). Or if I'm really honest, I've said it so the other person would be less likely to retaliate because of my behavior. We hope to explain away the pain or hurt we've caused.
Telling the truth forces us to abandon the excuses and justifications.
3. It is unpredictable.
A story that I make is much easier to predict than the truth. Truth has so many spider veins that feed into other things. We think lying is a nice little bundled package...at first anyway.
4. It's no fun!
The truth is not sexy or exciting. Lies are. There is no thrill in telling the truth. There is relief...but how fun is relief?
We think lies are the simplest solution. But think about this. Before you lie to cover your own rear end, or to try to protect someone's feelings, or to diminish the effects of your mistake, consider the message you'll have to prepare once the lie is found out.
The cover up has even more venom than the lie itself.
I didn't mean too doesn't undo the damage. Sure, in some cases, it might soften a heart towards you and make reconciliation a little easier, but it doesn't remove the damage done.
If lying is instinctive, then it reasons to believe that we need to develop a way to override the urge or instinct to lie. How?
How to overcome the temptation to lie
Learn a new skill
Perhaps you lie because you don't know what else to say. Hire a coach to help you form responses to the situations so you don't have to rely on lies.
Think about others, not yourself
Leadership is about service to others. Think of the consequnces.
Practice telling the truth no matter what.
Let's practice what we preach. We tell our children to tell the truth no matter what, so embody that lesson once more.
Find other ways to satisfy
We lie because we get something from it. It benefits us somehow. In order to overcome it, you must find another way to get that gratification met.
How would you suggest we overcome out tendency to lie?