It’s a very interesting subject. It seems to me it’s about revealing and concealing. Everyone gathers facts about situations (facts being both objective and subjecting – the subjective being beliefs and beliefs being opinions that turn into certainties)and everyone decides on whether to reveal or conceal facts depending on their own perception of their self interest. Straight talking folk believe they gain personally from being utterly frank about everything as this feeds their self interest which may be closely linked to their self esteem. Such folk may not have worked out the self interest of those with whom they are interacting, so being blunt misses out on the loop in interaction that is sensitive to the self interests of others. Sometimes, being revealing about events to others is based on seeking empathy from others without really understanding the self interest of others, and can lead to dis-engagement from others, which can come as a surprise to the person doing the revealing. If honesty equates with revealing then honesty can be damaging, in a context where revealing is not normally part of the cultural context for the interaction.
Therefore, in delivering an assertive message it is always necessary to create the cultural environment first that is aimed at eliminating or mitigating the risk of psychological distress to the other person. Lying is about creating an interaction when the liar is seeking to satisfy the self interest of the other person whilst hoping to satisfy their own self interest. This amounts to concealing the truth. In answer to the question – how are you feeling? – we tend to lie because we don’t want the other person to be concerned, or to think poorly of us, and the question, which is a general question, is generally a hopeless question to ask, because we don’t always get an honest answer. The way to get an honest answer is to ask a unique question of the other person – I hear you have been ill, was it a cold or flu or something more difficult to handle? – it was nothing but a cold that has gone on far too long; thanks for asking. This may be closer to the truth, but may not be the revealing of all the facts. Is this being dis-honest?
It is a psychological phenomenon that we all exaggerate. We tend to do this to raise our own sense of self worth. Some people, when faced with an observation that reflects this exaggeration tend to exhibit false modesty, and self deprecate in an attempt to neutralise the exaggeration. Is this being dis-honest?
A company culture needs to encourage openness to enable people to express their opinion and views about anything. There should be no bar to any opinion and view, as this sets boundaries that then create a barrier of uncertainty in everyone’s mind as to what is acceptable in openness. The most complicated and difficult inhibitor to openness is eroticism. Most people have erotic thoughts, feelings towards several people they meet in any single day, and it is the erotic foundations to interaction that produces the quickest and most successful form of interaction – the behaviours that persuade others to do things they might otherwise not do without causing distress. Yet, we have a cultural context, both at work and outside work, which inhibits the expression of eroticism, as honesty and dis-honesty comes into play as a result of individual attitude towards eroticism which is heavily influenced by self interest as worked out in the cultural context in which we live. We, therefore, tend to conceal. This is hopeless when the behaviours we need to be successful are based on seductive thinking, feeling and behaviour. Interestingly, recent research has shown that people who exhibit their eroticism have 15% more success in their achievements that those who don’t.
Honesty is, also, not necessarily regarded as hugely valuable. The amount of adverse responses to being honest can often influence others to be dis-honest. I found this out to my cost when I dis-honestly ‘owned –up’ to having put a girls shoe down the toilet at school when I was about 5 years old. As the real culprit failed to mention the deed, and the school teacher was getting more and more frustrated, I admitted to the offense to get everything settled down so we could get back to the real business of playing in a sand pit! I got absolute hell for admitting this trivial offence, so much so I can remember everything about it. I remember well that no one challenged whether I did the deed or not; it was assumed I was telling the truth, which I wasn’t. But it taught me, at a very young age, about revealing and concealing.