It’s better to be slapped by the truth than kissed by a lie. -Russian proverb
I am all about the radical honesty. To me, honesty is sexy. So many people are fascinated by being slick, clever con artists. But that’s been done.
Want to be really edgy, super transgressive and really fuck up peoples’ minds?
Be honest. Nobody will expect that shit.
Everybody knows how to lie and we all do it… but it’s passé, boring, it’s been done.
Being honest and reliable and showing up and giving 100% is something that has fallen so incredibly far out of fashion that it’s once again, truly cool.
Now, that being said… there are times that it’s just plain dumb to be honest. Lying is sometimes not only OK… but advisable and yes, even necessary. There are places for good liars, like in the intelligence community and undercover police officers, etc.
It’s up to each individual to decide if they will be honest at all and if so, when that is.
Here’s my own barometer. I choose to be consciously dishonest with people who don’t have my best interests at heart.
I do not mean my selfish interests, as in “I want that ____, so it’s ok for me to trick that person out of it”.
I’m talking about my basic well being, as well as my highest good.
If a known enemy is asking me for information about myself, I am not going to be honest, unless it serves me to. Screw them. They hate me for no good reason and would gladly see me suffer and/or die. It’s just smart to lie to them.
If someone I love, someone “on my team” wants information, then I am going to be truthful with them. If they are truly on my side, then I cannot hurt them with the truth. The truth will only help them navigate the world more efficiently and any smart person will appreciate being told where the coral reefs and the land mines are.
The only exception is this. If I know that the truth will end up harming them or me somehow. For example, if I had a bottle of whiskey in a very well hidden place and my good friend who is a struggling alcoholic asks me if there’s booze in the house, I’ll probably lie. It’s for their own good.
While I have no interest in betraying their trust, I will gladly protect them from themselves.
The Important Bit
We all want other people to be more honest with us. We all get pissed off and take it really personally when people lie to us.
When lying is such a deeply entrenched, fear-based behavior, how can you get people to tell you the truth?
The good news is that you can get people to be more honest with you, more often. The bad news is that you will have to be very, very patient and you will have to work at it.
Here it is in a nutshell. Give people the space to be honest with you. Let them be wrong, without judgement. Create the kind of atmosphere in which the other person knows from experience that if they confess, you won’t jump down their throat.
Resist the sometimes overwhelming temptation to call them stupid or to insinuate that they are bad people, because they did a bad thing to you.
Expect people to do bad things, things that will adversely affect you, personally. Expect people to hurt you and then, don’t take it personally.
Tell them “It’s OK. I forgive you. Please just don’t do that again. At least, really try hard not to do it again”.
They won’t believe you at first. Why? Because we all get huffy and puffy when we’re lied to and we feel horribly unsafe when it’s someone who is supposed to care for us.
Of course they expect you to be pissed off and to rake them over the coals. Everyone else does. Why should you be any different?
So if you want to build a team that you can truly trust, be the exception to the rule. Allow people to tell you that they made mistakes and forgive them… graciously.
More so, allow someone to admit that they flat out betrayed you and then (crazy as it sounds and feels)… forgive them.
Eventually, you will foster a sense of not only trust but of dedication with that person. They will come to see you as an absolutely indispensable ally. They will move Heaven and Earth to please and protect you.
If you can bring yourself to be this forgiving with someone and then they fail to recognize what a treasure they have in you, just move on.
Forgive. Do not forget.
The essential caveat is this. Don’t be an idiot. Some people are scorpions and will never be frogs. If you give someone the opportunity to right their wrongs and they continue to trample over your boundaries (especially if it’s the same boundary, over and over), then you owe it to yourself to shut that person out of your world.
Maybe they will go off and learn something from the experience. If you watch them close and resist the temptation to just let them right back in, you might be able to trust them again once they have proven themselves.
Unfortunately, most people who are willing to actively deceive you are not going to do what it takes to get back inside the castle walls. There can be many reasons why but the reasons don’t matter, ultimately.
All that matters is that we choose our path. You do have free will and you can decide to be a house builder or a house breaker.
It’s much easier to throw rocks at a house than it is to build one. You can easily play the divider. That formula is simple.
Just tell one person something untrue, something awful about them, and say that you heard it from someone who they care about. Sit back and watch the chaos.
Congratulations, you are now a 6 year old. That’s what bratty little kids do on the playground. You officially suck.
Or, you can build a network of people who are so closely knit that they trust each other implicitly. If they did happen to get scared or get weak and they betrayed each other, they would quickly come clean about it and make amends.
They would not stop until they had done whatever it takes to make it right. They would move Heaven and Earth.
Such a team is a force to be reckoned with and it starts not with just two people… it starts with one.
You know the saying from Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
This means you should expect that even those closest to you will fuck up and they will hurt you.
When they do, assume positive intent.
Assume that underneath what looks like an awful attack is a person who was frightened like a child and could not think of a better way to handle the situation. They feel terrible and they want to make it up to you.
Don’t be surprised when even your inner circle people do something that feels like a deal-breaker move to you. Instead of flying off the handle, sit back and ask yourself (gently) if it would be OK to experiment with the situation.
Say to your inner child “Yes, it’s entirely possible that this person is a piece of shit that simply does not care about me and they will lie to me and hurt me again, if I let them. However, if I give them another chance, I may just be converting them, bringing them across the divide and turning an enemy into an ally”.
Be easy with yourself when you don’t get this smooth, zen-like response from yourself. The inner child is trying to protect you from scoundrels. So, if someone admits a wrong and you still blow up, step back and cool off. Try again, later.
Whether you forgive them immediately or a week later, keep your guard up. If they continue to betray you, then you don’t have a friend there, you have a toxic person who you need to get away from.
Yes, you’re taking a risk. Be honest with yourself first and ask yourself “Is it even worth it?”. If you think this person might be a valuable enough team member, once they are steered fully straight, then bite the bullet and try it out.
You will be wrong sometimes. Some people will just do it again, regardless. Why try then? Because you just might stumble on to someone who was just doing what everyone else did, because they didn’t know any better. You might find yourself a gold nugget, instead of a shit nugget.
You might find someone who is interested in being part of that dream team, in being part of something exceptional.
It’s true that most people are so jaded and cynical that they will literally laugh at you for being such a gullible, Pollyanna moron. They will think you’re such a stupid sucker and count their blessings for finding such a mark as you.
A truly shitty person, deeply invested in deceit will delight in your forgiveness, thinking that they have “fooled you once again”. They will take it as evidence that they are indeed smarter than you and hence, superior.
But this actually doesn’t matter as much as you might think. If they are going to do it again, you will find out and when you do, you will walk away from them for good, once and for all.
And guess what. Such a person will still think they are smarter and superior. That’s just someone who can’t see reality, no matter which angle you present it at.
If they are that far gone, then giving them one more chance probably doesn’t make much difference.
Trust your gut. If whatever they did was so sick, so horrible that even one more chance is too much for you, then back away and save your grace for someone more deserving.
If you do decide to try this experiment and they deceive you repeatedly, then they don’t deserve your trust or anything you have to offer.