Lying is an inextricable part of the human experience. When Grandma gives you a horrendously ugly sweater for Christmas, you can’t possibly say you don’t like it or you risk hurting a nice lady’s feelings.
Why do you not just say the truth? Research suggests that many of us lie frequently without even thinking about it. We’ve all lied to someone at some point in our lives, and some of us do it more often than others. Sometimes our lies are relatively harmless; other times, lying is more serious and can have significant consequences.
We also lie without even thinking about it. In a Live Science article by Robin Lloyd, University of Massachusetts research Robert Feldman and his team videotaped two strangers having a 10-minute conversation. Before being shown the footage, each person said they were accurate and honest in the conversation.
After being shown the footage of the conversation, however, a different story emerged as subjects discovered little lies they had slipped into the conversation, often without even noticing. 60% of subjects lied in those 10 minutes, and made an average of 2.92 false statements. Feldman told Live Science that were often trivial and made almost reflexively, like pretending to like someone they didn’t like. We try not to insult each other, and prefer a harmonious conversation.
The study indicated that women and men lie about the same amount, but men usually lie to make themselves look better while women lie to make other people feel better.
Jennifer Argo of the University of Alberta says that we are even more likely to lie to our co-workers. In a competitive environment like the workplace, we want to get ahead and protect our image. Survival instincts? Maybe.
While white lies may have their place, it is important to use those lies sparingly. The best relationships are built on trust and honesty, and you risk alienating yourself if you are caught lying. Trust is difficult to rebuild, so lie at your own risk. Better yet, tell the truth. In practice, lying is actually hard work because it requires us to archive, sort and retrieve what we said or written before — the lines between fact and fiction can blur.
Mark Twain said it best, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
John Bradley Jackson
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