Would I ever lie to you?

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Would I ever lie to you?

Ever hear that statement? Technically, of course, it is a question, but it is a question that has a presumed answer.

You are supposed to say “no” even if you know the answer is, or soon will be, a resounding “yes!”

Lying is by definition a deceptive act, but lying only works if we, the listeners, are inclined, consciously or not, to agree.

We can be primed to agree, we can even be set up, or set ourselves up, to believe almost anything no matter how false or even preposterous, a statement might be.

When my daughter was about six years old, she would loudly proclaim “I’m not tired!”

If you are a parent, you know exactly when she would make that statement – right at bedtime.

Here is how it usually unfold; she would walk into the room, knowing full well that it was bedtime, and say in her loudest, and in her mind at least, most convincing voice, “I’m not tired! I’m not tired! I’m not zzzzzz………” as she would fall asleep right in front of us.

I’m not sure anyone would call that lying, but she was certainly doing her best to convince us, or maybe it was herself, that she was in fact not tired. The obvious reality though, was that she was long past being able to recognize, or acknowledge her fatigue.

Children are transparent manipulators of the truth. Adult are a few degrees more complex in their strategies of (self) deception.

Fiction is great in novels or movies, not so good in business or politics
Fiction is great in novels or movies, not so good in business or politics

Think back for a moment on your younger years, perhaps your college years. I am sure you were at least a witness to someone saying “I’m not drunk!”

You don’t need to be a psychoanalyst to know that the only time one says “I’m not drunk!” is when they most certainly are.

In fact the louder, or more persistently, the statement is heard, the more obvious it is to everyone present, that the speaker is in fact not moderately “buzzed” but is “plastered” beyond recognition. Again, are they trying to convince us? Or themselves?

If you have ever seen this happen, you know immediately that no one around this person is convinced of their sobriety – quite the opposite.

One of the advantages of living several decades is that, if we are paying attention, we can pick up multiple cues when someone is lying, or attempting to lie, to us. Too many words, distracting repetition, nervous gestures, they all betray the liar.

Lie to me

Law enforcement, for obvious reasons, has studied how we as humans can be deceived. Lying is the ultimate cooperative act. A well-practiced liar will “read” his victim and tell them what they want to hear. In almost every legally questionable situation lying is to be expected.

Even in everyday life, all is not as it appears. Each one of us has “sides” we don’t show others. We all have struggles and challenges that might be best unspoken in public. We might even have interests, hobbies or experiences that may have defined us in the past, but for whatever reason, should lie in the background under most circumstances. How many of us harbor, somewhere in our mythic childhood memories, an obsession with a toy, cartoon or Disney character?

Most lies, if we even want to call them that, are harmless evasions or slight exaggerations of what really happened. How many times, for example, have you been to a family reunion or gathering and heard a story you knew was false? Or heard a cherished childhood memory debunked?

Most of the time these family stories are told (or believed) with absolute conviction.

Ever have the experience at a family gathering when a certain pivotal event comes up and you have a distinct memory of it and someone shows a photograph with you not only not in the photo, but it is clearly obvious that the photo was taken long before you were born?

We were brought up in the context of the story and pictured ourselves in it. In other words, we wanted to believe the lie.

Some lies are deliberate, some are accidental. Some lies are trivial, some are momentous. Some lies (like the traditional story of George Washington admitting to cutting down a cherry tree) are culturally defining, whether they are factually “true” or not.

Some, like a belief in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus or Elf on a Shelf, convey a message – though as I think about it, I have no idea what the intention really is.

Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception says that we are lied to 10-200 times a day (you can see her TED Talk here.

Many of these lies are harmless and inconsequential, some are not.

How many of these lies have you heard (or used)?

I have read & agreed to the above terms and conditions
I wasn’t even there!
I’m fine.
I’ll be there in five minutes.
Honest, I don’t even know her name!
I didn’t say that.
That looks good on you.
I was only trying to help.
No problem. 
Nothing to see here…
It’s the principle of the thing.
Your call is very important to us.
It isn’t you. It’s me.

Or how about my five-year old grandson’s one-size-fits-all excuse – “Me not do!

Lies are near constant and to some degree, they make the routines of life go a bit smoother. Do we really want to know how a grocery store clerk or bank teller is doing today? Do we ever really care how sincere someone is when they say “Have a nice day!”

So go ahead and compliment someone today, they might not look their best, but we could all use a word of encouragement now and then.

It’s the deliberate – and manipulative lies that bother me. If a salesperson lies to me, I refuse to buy their product even though I intended to, and I, like most people, will let everyone know about my experience.

Money can be made by deception, but enduring businesses know that one customer for life is worth ten – or even twenty – one-time customers.

A good reputation is accumulated over time and can be lost with one clumsy interaction.

Your average customer is likely to tell two or three friends about a good experience – but ten or more about a negative experience.

My biggest complaint about lying is not the motive or even the morality of the statement. I am bothered by the inherent laziness of most lies – the liar wastes our time with stuff they just make up. Misrepresenting is disrespectful. Does someone lie because they are making something up or because they think we are stupid enough to believe them? Either way, I don’t like it.

Don’t try to sell me something I don’t need. Don’t lie to me about your product or service. I’ll be glad to buy it for a fair price. If you respect me, I’ll respect you.

There’s nothing I as a customer want more than a reliable product or a business that treats me fairly.

It’s pretty simple, isn’t it?