Day 612: How Far Does Dishonesty Go?

So before I get started, what I'm going to do is I'm going to clarify my goal for you, which is not to teach a game of Gotcha. Liespotters aren't those nitpicky kids, those kids in the back of the room that are shouting, "Gotcha! Gotcha! Your eyebrow twitched. You flared your nostril. I watch that TV show 'Lie To Me.' I know you're lying." No, liespotters are armed with scientific knowledge of how to spot deception. They use it to get to the truth, and they do what mature leaders do everyday; they have difficult conversations with difficult people, sometimes during very difficult times. And they start up that path by accepting a core proposition, and that proposition is the following: Lying is a cooperative act. Think about it, a lie has no power whatsoever by its mere utterance. Its power emerges when someone else agrees to believe the lie. 
So I know it may sound like tough love, but look, if at some point you got lied to, it's because you agreed to get lied to. Truth number one about lying: Lying's a cooperative act. Now not all lies are harmful. Sometimes we're willing participants in deception for the sake of social dignity, maybe to keep a secret that should be kept secret, secret. We say, "Nice song." "Honey, you don't look fat in that, no." Or we say, favorite of the digiratti, "You know, I just fished that email out of my spam folder. So sorry."  
But there are times when we are unwilling participants in deception. And that can have dramatic costs for us. Last year saw 997 billion dollars in corporate fraud alone in the United States. That's an eyelash under a trillion dollars. That's seven percent of revenues. Deception can cost billions. Think Enron, Madoff, the mortgage crisis. Or in the case of double agents and traitors, like Robert Hanssen or Aldrich Ames, lies can betray our country, they can compromise our security, they can undermine democracy, they can cause the deaths of those that defend us. 
Deception is actually serious business. This con man, Henry Oberlander, he was such an effective con man British authorities say he could have undermined the entire banking system of the Western world. And you can't find this guy on Google; you can't find him anywhere. He was interviewed once, and he said the following. He said, "Look, I've got one rule." And this was Henry's rule, he said, "Look, everyone is willing to give you something. They're ready to give you something for whatever it is they're hungry for." And that's the crux of it. If you don't want to be deceived, you have to know, what is it that you're hungry for? And we all kind of hate to admit it. We wish we were better husbands, better wives, smarter, more powerful, taller, richer -- the list goes on. Lying is an attempt to bridge that gap, to connect our wishes and our fantasies about who we wish we were, how we wish we could be, with what we're really like. And boy are we willing to fill in those gaps in our lives with lies. - Pamela Meyer  

Humanity is certainly a dishonest species at this point in time. I don't know if it was ever any different, but what I do know is that is is possible for a person to be and live honestly (especially with themselves).

What Pamela doesn't touch on is the degree to which we lie to ourselves. Think about it: most of the time what's going on inside our minds is like a conversation - so why do we assume that the things we do in conversations with other people don't also happen in the conversations in our minds? Why do we assume that each and every thought we have is righteous and honest? The truth is that we probably lie to ourselves as least as much as we lie to each other.

Self dishonesty and self deception leads to rather unpleasant experiences in most peoples' lives. It also often creates consequences in the lives of other people. Take this rather extreme scenario as an example: It is well known that people tend to try to overcompensate for things, especially when there is a discrepancy between what they believe they should be like and what they actually are like. So imagine that a religious person believes that sexual thoughts are wrong and impure, but they have these thoughts existing within them which they are unable to stop. What often happens is that this person will then be very extreme in their outward appearance and behaviour in terms of their belief by admonishing others for having those thoughts and even advocating against them in a public manner. All the while, the reality is that who they believe they should be does not match with who they actually are and so they try to enforce their belief on the world to try and make themselves feel better, and in a roundabout way to try and control the thoughts that they feel they have no control over.

Self dishonesty can manifest in a number of different ways like self image, opinions, beliefs, thoughts, emotions, judgements and so on. Say you have an opinion about something and you believe firmly that you are right - BUT you believe it so strongly that you will not consider anything else then you need to consider that somewhere within yourself you are hiding the truth and are holding on to this belief in order to try and protect yourself from knowing the truth. This is only one example, but it is common enough that most people have experienced it at least once in their life.

The sad thing is that it can be so much more difficult to tell when we are lying to ourselves compared to when other people are lying to us - we usually have a reason to be doing it (not that the reason is going to be valid) -  in the end, the reason seems real enough to justify the deception and what is worse to us than spotting deception is admitting that we may be wrong.