The High Cost of Lying

The Surprisingly Large Cost of Telling Small Lies by Rebekah Campbell.

From the post:

Recently, I caught up with one of our angel investors for lunch: Peter is a brilliant entrepreneur from England who has lived all over the world. He has built several businesses and now lives a dream life with a house on a harbor, a happy family and a broad smile.

As our conversation drifted from an update of my company to a deep discussion about life itself, I asked him what he thought was the secret to success. I expected the standard “never give up” or some other T-shirt slogan, but what he said took me by surprise. “The secret to success in business and in life is to never, ever, ever tell a lie,” he said.

That stumped me. I know that lying is bad and telling the truth is good — we learn that as children. But the secret to success? I looked at Peter, confused and skeptical. He nodded and assured me, “Complete honesty is the access to ultimate power.”

As we spoke, I started thinking about the little lies I tell every day — often without thinking about it, but not always. I have been guilty of exaggerating a metric here or there or omitting facts for my own advantage. Each time, there is a little voice inside my head that tells me it is the wrong thing to do. I have wondered whether everyone does this or whether it is just me. Could this be what has been holding me back?

I did some research and it seems most of us lie quite a bit. A study by the University of Massachusetts found that 60 percent of adults could not have a 10-minute conversation without lying at least once. The same study found that 40 percent of people lie on their résumés and a whopping 90 percent of those looking for a date online lie on their profiles. Teenage girls lie more than any other group, which is attributed to peer pressure and expectation. The study did not investigate the number of lies told by entrepreneurs looking for investment capital, but I fear we would top the chart.

We all need to read Rebekah’s post at least once a month, if no more often.

What really annoys me are techno lies. Where you ask about one issue and the response is a lot of bluff and bluster about how the questioner doesn’t understand the technology, community, some unspecified requirements, etc.

When I get that response, I know I am being lied to. If the person had a real answer, they would not have a stock paragraph that keeps repeating the careful consideration some group made of the question at some unspecified time.

They would just say: sorry, here are the facts (a short list) and this is why X works this way. Quite simple.

BTW, there is a side-effect (sorry functional programming fans) to not lying: You don’t have to remember what lie you told to who in what context. Greatly reduces the amount of clutter than you have to remember.

At least if you want to be a successful liar. I would rather be successful at something else.

PS: Would you consider closed source software that was compromised to spy on you as lying? As in lying to a customer? I would too.

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