Lying in America – Fundamental to the Human Condition?
What has happened? Have we succumbed to habitual self deceit and deceit with others out of self preservation, fear, lack of confidence or ego? And if so, what damage do we incur in our personal life and business?
Are we truly living in a world that evolves around deceit? It would appear the answer is a resounding yes. Without question it would be extremely difficult to find anyone who has not lied, to themselves or others, almost every day of their life.
I suspect that many, who tell the sales person at the department store “I’ll be back,” with no intention of returning, give little consideration to their behavior of deceit or lying.
If that was only an isolated instant of deceit not much damage would occur. However, lying is pervasive in our culture and as such, works quite well for us, helping us skirt through multiple issues in life and business. It would appear that deceit is fundamental to the human condition and it’s a function that works not just some times but most often. Or does it?
But could we rationalize lying, at one level, as being OK and at another not so ok? Often we hear ourselves in little fibs when we get caught with our hands in the cookie jar to extreme outright intentional exaggeration and lies. As you follow along with some sense of curiosity we can explore innocent deceit as opposed to outright criminal deceit and the implications that manifest in ones life.
Studies show that women lie for different reasons than men. Psychologist Robert S. Feldman, of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, found that women had a higher probability to lie to make a stranger feel good, and men lie most often to make them look good. There have been studies conducted showing men are more prone to lie about their sexual conquests where as women tend to under disclose their sexual experiences. The many lies we engage in may seem somewhat innocent and are not just verbal, but take on forms of nonverbal deception.
Catch me – Catch you:
Here are just a few examples of lying – literally making statements and displaying forms of nonverbal behaviors that is simply not true.
- Making statements during an interview with exaggerations that are highly embellished to influence or support the padded resume.
- I’ll call you right back – never to pick up the phone – (procrastination or lying?)
- How about that phony flashing smile with the statement, that accompanies it, “Have a nice day.”
- The lies that people tell to gain an advantage or to boost a friend’s self-confidence — your very best friend was fired from her job and you told her she didn’t deserve to be fired when, in fact, you knew that her performance reviews were always at the lowest end of the scale.
- The choreography of deceptive skills to lure a potential partner into sexual activities or into a relationship.
It appears that lying will continue to be pervasive in our life because it works and helps us in reaping an advantage in social, professional and economic success.
Self deception! – Self damage?
Aldert Vrij, Department of psychology, University of Portsmouth, UK in his work says “people fool themselves – a process which is called self-deception. After failing an examination, students often delude themselves into believing that they could not motivate themselves enough to revise thoroughly for the exam, instead of acknowledging that they do not understand the topic very well.”
Pulling the wool over our eyes has critical ramifications. Let’s put another spin on this concept of lying to ourselves and look at how self-deception creates procrastination.
The mind can distort perception of deceit and trigger procrastination and self damage. Experts agree that procrastination is needlessly putting off, postponing or delaying a timely activity and is a learned behavior. Self-deception in the most innocent form becomes a learned behavior and flows over into all areas of life.
Lies begin to take on a life of there own many time fooling us to believe them as truths and because they work we build on them.
Example: You’re in a retail store admiring a jacket, of which you fall in love with, until you see the price. Knowing that you can’t afford it, you place it back on the rack and as you begin to leave tell the sales person that you’ll be back – the sales person smiles and you’re on your way – knowing full well that was a lie, an innocent lie, but never the less a lie.
In contrast you have a report due first thing in the morning and your boss stops in your office to remind you. You smile, saying the report is finish and it will be on your boss’s desk first thing in the morning. However, that was not the truth, and you’ll be burning the midnight oil because you have put off doing the report for the last week. The next morning you call in sick because you need several more hours to work on the report. Your boss is sympathetic and gives you a pass until the next day.
Lying worked again, supporting your lying and your behavior of procrastination. But self-deception serves to protect your ego and self-esteem to some degree. Think about a time you were rejected for a job or date. The little lie that may have wiggled into your explanation when asked why you were rejected was – I wasn’t interested in this person after all – or the job just didn’t pay enough so I turned it down. The real reason was the person was not interested in you and on the job interview you didn’t qualify – (to protect your ego and self-esteem you lied).
Clients I have worked over the years come to me with deeply embedded fears that are anchored in what they believe are truths about themselves. All of which creates compounded habits of procrastination, lack and limitations in their life – that doesn’t mean that people that have it all together don’t lie. By definition lying is an intentional act. Someone who does not tell the truth by mistake or believes what they are saying; is not lying. A person, who mistakenly believes he/she was shot at while driving there car down the highway, and reports it to the police, has given a false report, but they did not lie.
Did President Bush deceive the world and the American people with his reasons for invading Iraq? How about John Kerry who also supported the invasion of Iraq – was he lying to the American public too? It appears that they both mistakenly believe that they were telling the truth base on the anecdotal evidence provided them.
In contrast: After the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke President Clinton was ardent in his lying – saying that he never had sex with that women.
Self-Oriented Lies and Other-Oriented Lies:
“Although no gender differences are found in the frequency of lying, it was noted that men and women tend to tell different lies” – Aldert Vrij. Regardless, self-deception in any form – believing one is less than they are – is damaging to the full actualization of a persons true ability and potential in life.
Example: Self-deception (self-oriented lies) that occurs in a person who believes that under any condition that he/she will fail an upcoming exam base on their historical past engage in procrastination and avoiding what is necessary to take the exam which precludes the individual from accomplishing their goal.
Other self-oriented lies many engage in are:
- Concealing information by evading questions from others – in questioning your 14 year old son or daughter if they smoke and they reply with a question – mom/dad do really think that I smoke?
- A spouse conceals her opinion when the husband asks about her sexual satisfaction.
- Many people fear rejection and try often to please others by avoiding giving their opinion on a topic and therefore either out right lie, conceal or evade a situation.
Many irrational fears are fostered from self-deception – bringing on anxieties, hopelessness, anger, lack of confidence and low self-esteem.
The consequences of self-deception and lying may not always be the same. Lying under oath will bring stronger consequences than lying about the number of dates you had this month. Regardless, the real consequence of lying, even though it has worked for you many times, becomes habit forming – many habits that can lead to procrastination and self destruction.
write by Elwyn