We all lie a little bit.
Someone asks how you are, and you say you are fine.
When you really aren’t.
And so it goes. You smile when you don’t feel like it. You say nothing when someone says something stupid. You ask someone how they are when you don’t care. Your polite to someone when you really want to be sarcastic. You blame someone else when it was really your fault. Or you accept blame in the place of someone else.
All these little ‘white lies’ act as a social lubricant. Or at least that is wheat we convince ourselves we are doing.
But if you have never stopped to think about it, do it now. Is it really helpful? Is it really to make things go smoother and is it really about sparing the other person’s feelings?
Or is it really about your own weaknesses? Your own inability to communicate truthfully? About your fear of confrontation? About not revealing your potential prejudices? Is it about banking some goodwill?
Is it just about pretending to be nice?
These very same little lies permeate our own business practices.
We don’t serve a customer well because they are human beings who deserve to be treated well; we do it because we want to make more money off them. We don’t treat our employees well because we should, but because we don’t want to go through the hassle of recruiting and retraining all the time.
But the most serious lie we tell is when we lie to ourselves. When we tell ourselves what we need to ‘hear’. When we avoid the truth about ourselves because it is unpleasant.
Maybe our employees don’t like us much. Maybe our customers are just being polite when they greet us. Maybe my store sucks and can’t admit it.
Recall Simon Cowell – your favourite American Idol judge – and some of his blistering comments. The reason the Idol franchise took off was in no small part due to his withering assessment of some of the contestants. And he made it personal too. Someone being brutally honest on national TV was suddenly a breath of fresh air.
While that can be dismissed as ‘entertainment’, I suspect that we need that same breath of fresh air in our everyday lives. It is no coincidence that behavioural intervention programmes (like AA) always have such a brutal admission as the very first step on the road to recovery.
White lies may seem to be beneficial on the surface but I suspect that, in the long run, we’d all be better served with brutal honesty.