A lie is like a loose thread on a shirt, it keeps getting bigger and bigger. until you finally rip it off.
The Wikipedia quotes: " What is absolutely true is always correct, everywhere, all the time, under any condition," adding: " An entity's ability to discern these things is irrelevant to the state of truth." It's a neat definition, but there are very few absolute truths in this world. Most of the time, we are dealing with relative truths, ideas that are true when considered from some points of view, but not others. When Ms. A accuses Mr. B of being uncommunicative, and he argues he is just quiet because he's tired, who can say who's telling the truth? Maybe they both are!
In a court of law, witnesses are cautioned to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The fact that lawyers then demand they restrict themselves to answering carefully-slanted questions means getting to the complete truth is very difficult.
Truth, Lies and Culture
If we all spoke the truth, all sins would vanish. Many types of crime would disappear. But understanding truth depends heavily on culture.
Broadly speaking, western society believes it virtuous to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth as best you can. In order to get the whole picture, everyone should strive to be fully informed. In addition, good ethics means not doing anything that can be considered unfair or underhand.
Eastern societal attitude is best described by chinese philosopher Confucius, who suggested that the fundamental goal is to promote mutual empathy and understanding. First, we must understand ourselves, and show our own feelings openly so that others will understand us. Second, the ethical person should always reciprocate. You must give and receive equally. Finally, Confucius suggested everyone treat their inferiors as they would want to be treated by their own superiors.
This explains why Westerners think it polite to turn down a prospectively hideous date with a cool, "Thank you but no", while Asians would delay making a decision until the hapless suitor gets the hint and moves on. Such style conflicts often cause a lot of misunderstanding and hurt.
Interestingly, increased cross-cultural contact means that some cultural conceptions are merging. An acceptable compromise might be, "I am sorry, but it's not possible." If both sides keep their heads and resist the temptation to expand on the reasons why it isn't possible, honesty and good manners can be preserved all around. so perhaps Utopia lies in the Pacific.
The Successful Liar
Research shows that people who are adept at social white lies " You're looking younger every day" are more popular than those who are rigidly honest, "You look your age, dear".
Little kids are taught lying is bad, but when you have been walloped for pointing out that Auntie C is getting really fat, and that Daddy said that Mummy can't cook as well as Granny, the unavoidable conclusion is that the truth hurts.
As we grow up, experience encourages us to polish out deceitful skills. "The dog ate my homework," "Traffic jam", and "Darling, you were wonderful"
We argue little that white lies are necessary for social good. We recognize them for what they are and secretly quite enjoy them. But recognizing unacceptable lies is more difficult. Adulterers and other cheats often go unspotted because we have trouble recognizing a practiced lie. But even with a believable tale, body language can give them away. Liars tend to twitch, look away at the moment they lie, sweat a little more, and become irritable in manner. Practiced liars know this, and rehearse their lies - just like actors rehearse for their job.
The good news is that it's extremely difficult to adjust your body language so that your audience can't tell you are telling a whopper. A lack of congruence that's likely to occur between the main gestures, the body micro-signals and the spoken words. Even if you sit perfectly still, tiny muscle movements will alert your audience subconsciously that something is amiss.
Don't get caught!
So how do you get out of that hideous lunch or turn down that gruesome date? Rehearsing your speech, keeping it very short, and managing the grosser body signals will help. Writing a note or email will eliminate the face-to-face element. But as sitcoms point out, lies tend to grow, and come back to haunt you. It's better to stick to the truth than to tell a lie.
If the truth isn't an option, and you can't duck the situation with delay tactics, a beer poll among a group of worldly types who requested anonymity suggested four basic rules:
DON'T LIE IF:
1. You think you'll be found out
2. You have a lousy memory
3. If requires the support of witnesses
4. The lie contradicts your usual style
Alternatively, consider "Tell the truth and run!"
When is it acceptable to lie?
"If it makes someone feel better."
"When your boss says he gave no such instructions, but you have the paperwork to prove he told you to!"
"If the truth hurts, and you are in a meeting or other public place where you can't talk privately, then you lie. you can set the record straight later."
"To give someone hope when they are ill or sad"
A list of common telltale signs that show someone is fibbing:-
- Like the monkey who speaks no evil, liars often cover or partially cover their mouths. So don't cover your mouth.
- Studies show intentional lies increase blood pressure that can lead to a tickly nose. So don't touch your nose.
- Preferring to see no evil, liars cover their eyes, rub them or look away to avoid seeing their victim. Don't rub your eyes.
- Liars may hold, rub or tug a ear to try and block hearing their own lies. So don't tug at your ears.
- Scratching the side of your neck below the ear indicates disagreement with what's being said - i.e. "I understand" when you really don't. So don't scratch your neck.
- Lies increase blood pressure, which leads to sweatiness and itchy collars. So leave your collar alone.
- To relieve the strain of lying, cheats suck their fingers, smoke, or chew gum for the sort of reassurance their mums used to give them. So don't fiddle, chew and suck on anything.