Expose those why try to deceive you.
"A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."
I often get asked through my coaching, how to manage communications with manipulative or lying co-workers, or even deceitful friends or family members. The messaging and communications tactics I provide them with are highlighted below.
Remember; it's better to trust than to live life suspiciously. Relationships grounded in trust are prized. However, when you're in uncertain conditions, with people trying to influence you, it's important to know what's credible, questionable, or largely dishonest. Sometimes your awareness of a major betrayal will come after the fact.
Jack frequently told his wife, Jill, of his disgust with the infidelities of his married co-workers. By accident, Jill found credit card statements concealed in the glove compartment of Jack's company car. The receipts showed local hotel room bookings on days Jack told Jill he was working out of town. She saw expensive restaurant tabs and floral bills that matched the hotel dates. Jill saw--in hindsight--that Jack had protested far too often and vigorously about others' philandering.
You can't know every malintention in other peoples' minds. Still, you can do much to protect yourself from mild, manipulative, and mendacious deceptions using a simple ten-point enlightened skepticism technique, and spare yourself from the stress of being duped.
Three M's of Deception
"Truth is such a rare thing; it is delightful to tell it." (Emily Dickinson)
When Oprah Winfrey endorsed James Frey's memoirs, he gained overnight fame. But Frey was a master of distortions and exaggerations. Many of his statements later didn't check out. As you recall, Oprah publicly scolded him for duping her and his readers. Frey rationalized to justify his lying. Then he and his publisher accused Oprah of duping them by inviting them to participate on a panel on "Truth in America." They allege they didn't know they were the subjects on the topic of deception. The poet, Sir Walter Scott, explained this path of deception when he wrote, "Oh what a wicked web we weave when first we practice to deceive."
Which of the following categories do you think Frey's fibs fall?
Lies and deceptions range from mild to manipulative to mendacious. Mild deceptions rarely cause significant harm. We approve of lies we want to believe. A friend may not like your outfit and still compliments your appearance.
Most prefer white lies over angrily delivered raw truths. People tell face-saving fibs to evade blame: "Gee, I'm sorry I couldn't get back to you. My mother was in the hospital." If you ask a woman for a date and she says "I'd love to go, but my cousin will be in town," she's probably letting you down kindly. If she really wanted to date you, she'd give you an alternative time. On-line dating services are common grounds for deception. Men are more likely to misrepresent their personal assets and relationship goals, and women to misrepresent their weight. You promise to do part of your project on time. You procrastinate. When you make this type of false promise, you straddle the worlds of mild and manipulative deceptions.
Manipulative deceivers contrive by hiding information, distorting, and exaggerating to control your choices and decisions. These deceptions are the tools of con-artists, politicians at times, unscrupulous marketers, and nearly everyone else who seeks advantage at your expense. You believe your financial broker works in your interest. But the end game is not necessarily to make money for you. The objective is to earn money for the firm. You are the means to support that end. The results of this type deception may be financially stressful.
Mendacious deceptions are conscienceless acts that cause major harm and stress. If you believe in evil, here is where you'll find it at different levels of cruelty. Heaven's Gate cult leader and mass murderer, Marshall Applewhite, habitually deceived, controlled, and eventually killed off most of his followers. He duped many into believing they were space aliens whose time had come to move to heaven via a spaceship that followed the Hale Bopp Comet. But first they had to vacate their "vehicles" or bodies. Each packed a duffle bag and had twenty-five cent pieces for this spirit trip. As Applewhite murdered each to free them from their bodies, you'd think that the remaining cult members would figure out why the bags and coins stayed behind. Bernie Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme was a mendacious deception. He habitually caused great harm to many. De la Villehuchet, a French financier, lost over $1.4 billion from buying into that scheme. It dearly cost him, his family, his friends, and his colleagues. He killed himself.
Enlightened Skepticism for Building Confident Composure
"Truth fears no questions." (Unknown)
Protect yourself from harmful deceptions through enlightened skepticism and confident composure. Enlightened skepticism is a way to assess truth through fact-finding and questioning. You gain from this effort in at least three ways. You (1) hone your critical thinking skills; (2) learn who to trust, and in what degree; (3) discover who seeks personal advantage at your expense.
Confident composure is a belief that you can directly command only yourself. You resolve to do so. When you are in charge of yourself, you believe you can better influence the controllable events that take place around you. You act to do so. When you feel confident and composed, you are likely to come across as sincere and sharp. A firm, unwavering, no makes the point that you refuse to be duped. Habitual deceivers may seek easier targets.
You are vulnerable to lies and deceptions when you don't know the facts, the situation is fuzzy, or you want to believe. You can add to your confident composure through enlightened skepticism. Ask yourself ten enlightened skepticism questions to gain clarity:
1. What do I know about the speaker's truthfulness?
2. Is the statement consistent with reality?
3. Can I verify the statement?
4. What do I gain by accepting and acting on the statement?
5. What do I lose by accepting and acting on the statement?
6. What does the speaker gain if I bought into the statement?
7. What is exaggerated or downplayed in the statement?
8. Does the idea seem too good to be true?
9. Would I advise my best friend to accept the statement without a question of doubt?
10. What doesn't compute? (Is something being said too emphatically or in some strange way?)
By asking and answering these questions, you can help yourself keep habitual deceivers at a distance. However, you may find gaps in your information. In higher risk situations, suspend judgment until you know enough to render a reasoned judgment.
You can practice developing your deception detection skills using fun simulations:
1. Observe TV opinion shows. Listen to the talking points. You'll hear examples of hyperbole, omissions, half-truths, outright lies, and overgeneralizations, and emotional reasoning to control the narrative and shape public opinion.
2. Commercials give you opportunities to practice your critical thinking skills. What omissions and exaggerations do you find? What do independent product rating show?