We all Lie!
All of nature including humans is hardwired for deception. Lying is a form of deception. Deception is an effective tool in a competitive world. Predators with the ability to pick out the weaker of their prey have a better chance of survival. Hence prey that hid their weaknesses have a better chance of survival too. Deception helps organisms secure advantage in their ecosystem. Be they predators or prey – be it for food, territory, dominance, survival or potential mate.
Deception in the animal kingdom tends to increase with intelligence. So it stands to reason that we humans are most proficient at deception. It is woven into our social norms. We put on makeup, wear clothes, and generally portray the image that we want to be than what we actually are. It starts early too, most of us have observed a crying baby pause, look around to assess the situation and then resume crying or not.
Truth and Trust
The objective of this article is not as much about “lie-spotting”, as it is about truth seeking. Truth seeking, not lie-spotting is the key to building trusting relationships. Lie-spotting is an arms race; as we become come more proficient in the science of lie-spotting, there are those who are becoming more proficient in lie concealment. Lie-spotting is not exact science, most of us get it right about half the time. The experts have better odds but nowhere close to 100%.
Approaching deception from a truth seeking perspective attempts to identify, understand and address what is driving the deception. One has a better chance of building trusting relationships by identifying the things that drive the deception. But it is not easy, or an exact science. Nor is it applicable to highly adversarial situations. Often it takes more effort to seek out the motives behind the deception than to simply lie-spot. However the outcome of achieving the trusting relationships makes this effort worthwhile.
The Nature of a Lie
I tend to agree with Pamela Meyer that “lying is a cooperative act.” A lie in isolation holds no value, it’s power comes from having an accomplice. An accomplice is one who believes and/or accepts the lie. At times we may be unwilling participants in the lie, however it is always our choice whether we accept the lie or not. Depending on the situation, perhaps the consequence of accepting the lie outweighs that of not accepting.
It is human nature to be prepared to give up something we have in exchange for something we desire. If someone has something we desire, they appear mighty attractive. Take away the object of desire and they lose their attractiveness. Most of us have had experienced this. This is perhaps our biggest blind spot to deception. Our burgeoning marketing and advertising industry exploits this. Advertising encourages us to purchase goods by associating them with fulfilling our desires. The quest of knowing what humans desire is big business, and is the business model of Internet search engine and social media companies. They collect this information and sell it to marketers and advertisers for “big bucks”, but I digress.
Trust can be built over time by simply being genuinely interested in a mutually beneficial win-win outcomes for all involved.
If we do not want to be deceived, we need to be aware of our desires, and avoid becoming the accomplice to the deception.
In building trusting relationships through empathetic and and reflective listening in conversations, we can become aware and help others to become aware of their inner desires. Understanding people’s inner desires with the intent to win advantage is just being deceptive and will not build true long term trusting relationships.
How honest we are with each person in our life are choices we all make. If we perceive someone as as not being honest, we tend to be more guarded and deceptive towards them. That is, we reciprocate in kind. Most of the time, how we perceive others’ treat of us is a refection of how we treat them. If we are honest and trustworthy in our interactions, then here too, most people will reciprocate in kind.
It is important to keep in mind that perceptions are our subjective reality. Subjective reality shades actual reality based with our past experiences, thoughts and feelings. Being alert to this probable disconnect, we can give the other the benefit of the doubt, unless sufficient evidence is mounting to the contrary.
I do not think that it is possible to remove the drivers that cause people to be deceptive. However a healthy awareness of those drivers and the inner desires that drive deception together with a genuine willingness to achieve win-win outcomes will go a long way to rising above deception.