Estimated Lesson Time: 6 minutes
Nobody likes dishonest people, whether in a personal situation or in business. Just about the worst label one can be branded with is a “liar.” Lying is like a contagious disease but rather than spreading to others; it spreads to all parts of one’s life. One little lie often turns into a series of lies all constructed to support the other lies. Then, each one of those lies needs more lies to support those lies, and what was once a small white lie turns into a lifetime of dishonesty and deceit. Sooner or later, those who lie will get caught in a lie, and trust, integrity, and chances at lasting success will be lost.
Lies can be told for many reasons. Some of the reasons may appear fairly honorable, but it is important to realize that once you allow yourself to lie for any reason, you begin a path on a slippery slope. Perhaps you started with a lie that most would agree was for a very good reason; however, the supporting lies needed to cover the original lie may start doing some damage. It is best to use every bit of your creativity, communication skills, and common sense to avoid lying at all costs. Here is a list of the some of the most common reasons why people lie and possible alternatives to lying for those reasons.
- To feel better about oneself. Many people who lack self-confidence resort to lying, or fabrication of truth to make up for their perceived shortcomings. A classic example of this is the people who subtract a few years when giving their age, or a few pounds when giving their weight. Greater self-confidence and acceptance will omit the desire for lying for this reason. Keep in mind that by using candor, you actually make others feel better about themselves and others will perceive you to be more honest and trustworthy. So next time someone asks you your weight, say with confidence and a dash of humor, “I weigh a big, fat xxx lbs.”
- Worried about what others will think. A lie is often told out of fear of not fitting in or the desire to protect one’s image. A teenager may come home way past his curfew, and when confronted by his parents as to his whereabouts, he may blurt out a series of lies out of fear of disappointing his parents. People often underestimate the understanding and compassion of others. It is by habit that we generally assume the worst and our minds play out the worst case scenario. Tell the truth, and you will likely be pleasantly surprised at the results. Even if others condemn your actions or behavior, they will admire and respect YOU more for your honesty.
- For attention or to appear interesting. Lying or making up stories is an easy way to get some quick attention. Our everyday lives generally do not make for interesting stories. When in conversation with others who are telling their stories (many of which are most likely exaggerated or even made up, depending on how many drinks they may have had), the need arises to “one-up” the person telling their story. To do this usually requires an exaggeration or fabrication of an even more entertaining story.
- To arouse negative feelings or emotions in others. Some will tell lies just to make others feel jealous, angry, regretful or other negative feelings or emotions. One shouldn't purposely arouse negative feelings in others, especially for self-gratifying reasons. This form of lying is used more often by kids and some adults who lack maturity and common decency.
- To arouse positive feelings or emotions in others. Lying in an attempt to make others feel good is also known as flattery. Flattery is the evil twin of sincere appreciation. Those who attempt flattery are usually pretty bad at it and are labeled as “brown-nosers.” A better way to arouse positive feelings or emotions in others is to use sincere appreciation. Take a moment to think about what you can truly appreciate about the other person. Are they wearing a tie or blouse that you really like? Do they handle pressure extremely well? Are they good at what they do? It is not hard to find something you can sincerely show appreciation for in another person—you may just need to look more closely.
- To protect the feelings of another. Are all lies bad? What about the overweight wife that asks the husband, “Does this dress make me look fat?” Of course, the husband could use the line from the movie Tommy Boy and say, “No, no, no... Your face does.” However, this type of response, depending on the sense of humor of the wife, may not go over too well. It is best to give an honest response, even if not a direct answer to the question. For example, “Honey, you are beautiful no matter what you wear”... and just hope that you are not pushed for an answer to the real question!
- Out of habit. Those of us who got away with lying in childhood, most likely carried the habit into adulthood. Like any other destructive habit, lying is not easy to break, but necessary if one is serious about success. The first step is to realize how destructive lying is to one’s reputation and success in life. Then, one must become consciously aware of when one is lying. Finally, and perhaps the most difficult of the steps, one must stop oneself as soon the lie begins to be told.
Lying can also be in the form of simply not letting the truth be known. This can happen by leading others to false conclusions and not correcting them. For every reason there is to lie, there is a better reason not to lie. For every problem you think a lie would solve, there is a better solution consisting of an honest approach—it just takes a little more effort and practice. Avoid lying and you’ll find you have better relationships and more success in both your personal life and in business.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)