We say it is wrong. We reword things to say “white lie” or “fibbing” to ease our guilt. We cross our fingers and hope for the best as if to suspend judgment and convince ourselves we are playing on the right side of communicative fair play. This blog explores white lies: the reasons and solutions.
It turns out the cards are stacked against us, both on a behaviorally and evolutionary scale. Researchers think as soon as Humans could communicate, we were manipulating the truth. According to writer Yudhijit Bhattacharjee of National Geographic, “The ability to manipulate others without using physical force likely conferred an advantage in the competition for resources and mates, akin to the evolution of deceptive strategies in the animal kingdom, such as camouflage.” Thus lying is built into our human DNA; it is safe to say that, to lie is to be human. According to Mark Twain, “A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself as a liar.”
These days, there are three main reasons we lie:
As frustrating as it is to listen to lies, we can begin to understand the motivation behind them. Asking the person:“Why is this situation so important to you.” Or, why is it important that I see this the same way you do?” These can be non-judgmental ways to get at the underlying reason for the deceptions. Do not ask, “Why are you lying?” These individuals do not want to be seen as liars and this question does exactly that. Communicating empathy for a person’s desperation is also a skill. This will allow them to see that honest communication is important. Finally, recognize and reinforce truth telling. This will reinforce more truth telling. The person will see that telling the truth really does not have to be scary.