In this era of alternative facts, truth telling has become almost quaint. Most of us lie, primarily to look good or protect others. But the new normal is to lie about things easily verified. Last month, I attended a birthday party for someone who told his guests he was 10 years younger than his actual age. Many of us knew his real age but he invited work colleagues who he wanted to deceive. I understand the temptation to appear youthful in a work environment but, for heaven’s sake, don’t give yourself a birthday party unless you’re willing to come clean about your age.
One of my relatives lied about his age for his entire career. He was quite old when his company forced him to retire. He was humiliated by this so he feigned employment for several years beyond his involuntary retirement. He kept up this ruse by dressing for work every day, taking the subway downtown and heading back home at a respectable time. This is an extreme (and somewhat comical) example of being held prisoner by one’s own lies.
I’ve been told that lying about one’s age on dating apps is commonplace. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t believe starting a relationship based on a lie is a good foundation, regardless of the motivation. Finding out someone’s age takes about 30 seconds. Try this: open your browser, type someone’s name, city of residence and add “age”. Boom: his/her name and age pop up.
White lies are usually reserved for protecting someone else’s feelings. When someone gives you a useless or hideous gift, serves you a meal that doesn’t suit you, or asks you how you like his new mullet haircut, the polite response is to lie. But then we get carried away.
Neuroscientists have revealed that we are hardwired to tell the truth; once we start telling small lies, the brain gets desensitized to the stress of lying. In other words, the more we lie, the easier fibbing becomes; it becomes habitual.
Half-truths are usually reserved for covering your tracks or trying to sell an idea or product. Advertisers are notorious for half-truths, citing the one study that may prove their point but ignoring the many other studies that discredit their product.
In the world of dating, half-truths are routine and may be motivated by protecting another. For example, telling a prospect, for whom you have little affection, that you aren’t “in a good place for a relationship” may be a half-truth. The full truth could be, “I’m not interested in a relationship with YOU.” But that would be cruel.
The Truth Will Set You Free
If we want to have real, meaningful relationships, start by telling your truth. The truth can be very appealing. I remember the first time I met my husband; he confessed that he hadn’t been successful at dating and took responsibility for his dating failures. (As opposed to saying he hadn’t met the right woman.) He had me at “I’m bad at dating.” Rather than run the other way, I leaned in. The truth is sexy.
The truth is also easier. Once you start lying, you have to maintain that lie. Remembering who you said what to is a big energy drain but needed if you want to preserve even the thinnest veneer of being trustworthy.
As the Dalai Lama has said: “being honest and truthful engenders trust and trust leads to friendship.” And friendships lead to lasting relationships be they platonic, romantic or work-related. True ‘dat!