moral


THE BIG LIE: I’M FINE

I'm Fine

Next to “I have read and agreed to the Terms and Conditions”, “I’m fine (sigh)” is the most often told lie in the English language. When I sense upset or illness, and hear someone say: “Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine.” The hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention and, I must admit, I go ballistic (at least on the inside).

Why do we people do that????

When I ask someone, “How are you doing (or feeling)?” I actually want to know. I’m even possibly concerned. It’s not a rhetorical question – so it begs a response – and it is an open-ended question, which, as anyone who’s ever taken an exam knows, requires more than a one-word answer! It’s an essay question fer cryin’ out loud! I’m looking for details here. I really want to know how you are.

I’m sure that for some people, “How are you?” is generally nothing more than an icebreaker; filler, a throw away greeting. But, for me, if I ask a question I actually expect an answer and some level of conversation to follow! If I wasn’t truly interested or I wanted a one-word response, I would have just asked, “Are you okay?” See? That’s a simple Yes or NO kind of query. No conversation expected.

Oh, and when someone asks me how I am, I tend to think about it and then give an honest, considered answer… “Kinda off today. How about you?” “Feeling great thanks, you?” “I’m exhausted! It’s hard to sleep when it’s so hot. How are you handling the heat?” “I feel great, thanks. I think it may be contagious… wanna catch some?!”

I love to surprise and delight people with a short but honest answer. Lord knows it’s usually unexpected. And regardless of what my answer is, I look them right in the eyes – the ‘ole human connection in action.

Sometimes, if I’m having a particularly rough day (Yes, even Susie Sunshine has ‘em), I say so and follow it up with: “It’s gonna take some doing to turn this one around. Your asking me about it sure helps, though. Thanks!” And, at the other end of the FINE spectrum, if I am having a tough day AND feeling grumpy, I have been known to either ignore completely or do an instant mega emotional dump all over their annoying, phony self-serving question. But, thank you, that hardly ever happens.

My favorite response is, “If I were any better I’d be twins!” People always smile and comment when I say that. Even just saying it makes me feel great. It’s a really happy comment, isn’t it? And I’m all about sharing the joy.

And, when I respond with “AWESOME, thanks! How about you?”(Which, by the way is my usual response.), I almost always get a big smile and a short, pleasant conversation begins…

Sure, I’ve occasionally gone down the path of throwaway question/throwaway answer. Really, who hasn’t? So, I guess I do understand at last a few of the reasons for the quick and simple “fine”.  Sometimes, when I’m in a hurry or a bad mood – or if I’m really preoccupied, I don’t even hear the question, so I don’t answer at all. There are times when, hey, I’m not sure how I feel. And there are times that I simply don’t want to talk about it or it’s just none of their business. Regardless, if I respond with an “I’m FINE”, you can be pretty sure it’s a BIG LIE… I’m not!!!

When comedian, George Carlin asked someone, “How are you?” and was answered with “I’m fine”, he said: “No, YOU are not fine. Your hair is fine!”


BUT THE LIE WAS TOTALLY JUSTIFIED

Every Lie Is Two

Years ago (many years ago) I went into business with a girlfriend. She was a force of nature – like a landslide. She was big, brash, blunt and – dare I say it? – ballsy! I thought those things would be assets in a business partner. Well, at least I did… until she became my business partner. Turned out she and I had very different ethics and values when it came to running a business.

She lied to one of our vendors about a problem they had caused for us. Yes, they screwed up, that was true. But we figured out how to work around the problem and all it cost us was a little extra legwork and aggravation. She, however, told the apologetic vendor that they had cost us a $1000 job and she expected them to cover it. They agreed.

When she told me what she’d done I was mortified – and I told her so. And that was when her justification process kicked in.  For the next few hours we ‘discussed’ the situation. I said it was wrong, unethical and a lie. She justified what she did by explaining that they screwed up and should pay for their mistake. They were a ‘big’ company and they could afford it. We could use an extra thousand dollars to fix up the store and put some of their money toward a new delivery vehicle. If we’d had a good delivery vehicle their screw-up wouldn’t have been so bad. We deserved a new one. She was teaching them a valuable lesson and I should be able to see that. Besides, she told me, they owed us for all the upset and running around we had to do because of them. It would make their company better in the long run. She knew what she was doing and it was the right thing to do.

Her defense of what she did – the explaining and justifying – didn’t alter any circumstances or my opinion about the morality of what she had done. All it did was have me shake my head in wonder at her ability to find reasons for everything she did. She had actually convinced herself that, once again, she was 100% right. In her mind she was justified.

FYI, I called the owner of the ‘offending’ company and told him that, after discussing it, we decided that all they owed us was a refund for the materials that didn’t get delivered. He was thrilled…  and I no longer had a partner/friend.

In the years since that defining episode, I’ve met other justification junkies. You know the type. No matter what they do or say (especially if the morality of it was in doubt), they were ready, willing and able to share their ‘good reasons’ for having done it or said ‘it’. I’m referring primarily to the ‘unethical’ choices that people make. The problem is, justifying those choices makes it easier the next time a tough choice has to be made. We get better and better at justifying the more we do it. These justification junkies have justified themselves and their actions so much for so long that they are totally convinced that anything they do is right and necessary. You can almost smell the overwhelming toxicity spewing forth from their self-defense.

I know we all justify our words and deeds to some extent, and we all love to be right, but when someone steps that far outside the moral boundaries of ethical human behavior – and is able to feel ‘right’ and good about it… I say it’s time to cull the herd.


MASTERING THE ART OF LYING

Trust me I'm a liar

This is not about a blog about the ethical or moral status of lying. It’s about teaching you to be better at doing it. It occurred to me that since we all lie… pretty consistently – even if for a wide variety of different ‘reasons’, we would all benefit from gaining a little expertise in that area. So, after combing the internet for ‘tips’ (since I’m not all that good at lying, myself) here’s what I’ve learned:

Don’t lie unless it’s going to get you something you really want. One could argue that sometimes a lie has merit; to protect a reputation, to prevent hurt to someone else, to win at poker, to ease tension, and so on, but it will always depend on the context and extent of the lie, as well as the legality/morality of what is being lied about. So, don’t try this at home, unless you have already dealt with your internal moral and ethical hurdles.

It helps to convince yourself that you’re telling the truth. Even if you’re delusional, it doesn’t really matter if you believe you’re telling the truth. Use your imagination to envision the lie, enacting it your mind as if it really happened. Do this over and over.

Speak generally – offer as few details as possible (unless you are absolutely positive you can remember them all). Say: Traffic was bad. Do NOT say: You should have seen the traffic, tons of cars backed up, I was standing still for at least 20 minutes, and then when we did start moving, we moved at a crawl for the next five miles… Say as little as possible.

When possible, make up a good story in advance and practice telling it. Writing out the lie can help to enhance your memory of it and to come up with a logical sequence of events to share.

Anticipate and rehearse your answers to their possible questions. Practice telling your lie using appropriate facial expressions (like holding back tears) and use the ‘real’ smile’ we talked about a few weeks ago.

Sprinkle in some partial, misleading truths – it’s hard to catch you in a lie if it isn’t a ‘whole’ lie.

Make eye contact and keep it… along with a neutral, relaxed posture.

Know your target – tell them what they want to hear.

Never change your story… in fact, bring it up again from time to time to reinforce it.

If you get caught, never tell the truth. Admit no wrongdoing!!! Make up another lie or tell a half-truth that isn’t quite as bad as the original lie and would have obviously forced you to make up that original lie. (You had no choice, did you?) If you can, decrease your responsibility and soften the impact of your lie by bargaining about your responsibility in the matter. (Who else can you blame?) The goals here are distraction from the real truth and keeping yourself out of trouble.

Blame the outcome as the cause: I dropped my stupid phone and it didn’t work so I couldn’t call – I was too upset – l and now I have to buy a whole new phone!

Add a small confession to your lie to reduce suspicion: I know I said I wouldn’t, but I foolishly called my ex just as I was getting ready to start on that work for you.  He really upset me and couldn’t do anything after that.

Combine your lie with the truth: Everyone was drinking at the party and when they offered me a drink I said “no” at first, but they insisted, so I decided to have just one small one. And that’s all it took. One little drink and I was totally drunk! What a lightweight, huh?

OR, HERE’S AN IDEA… IF ALL OF THIS SEEMS SMARMY OR LIKE TOO MUCH TO LEARN AND REMEMBER… JUST TELL THE TRUTH!!!