How honest can we be?

A story about daily lies and if it´s possible to stop telling them

Did you know that if someone were to ask you to describe your character, you would most likely include honesty? It´s one of the most desirable characteristics to have and when you think back to conversations held with friends, family or your partner, you would probably remember the last time you lied knowingly. And there we are. Knowingly.

Studies have shown that a person is very likely to lie at least once within a ten-minute conversation, be it consciously or unconsciously. You probably ask yourself what I mean by the term “lying unconsciously” and this is exactly the interesting aspect in this issue. Many people aren´t even aware that they´re not telling the truth because certain phrases just belong to our natural language.

A reliable and common example is the simple question “How are you?”. This question is meant to show your opposite that you´re interested in his or her well-being and that you care about their feelings. However, the unsatisfying truth is that you, and many other people, simply answer with phrases like “good” or “fine” even though you feel miserable because you had a tough day at work, your credit card was swallowed by the machine and your fridge is empty. Even myself, someone you would expect to be very aware of this scenario, is still doing this.

There´s an endless number of more phrases we´re tempted to answer not completely honest, for instance, you met and old acquaintance and he suggests that you should meet up soon and you´re answering “Yes, of course.”, but deep down inside both, you and your friend know that it´s probably not going to happen. But you said it anyways because you just wanted to be friendly. We´re all just humans. It´s deeply rooted in our social species that we like to be seen as friendly, courteous and interested in interaction with other people. We need other humans to exist and live a fulfilled life.

This is the reason why the man at the entry of the store asks us how we´re when we enter the store, he comforts us and we´re a little bit more likely to purchase something even though we know that he doesn´t care at all how our day was. Neither is he expecting an honest answer from you. In fact, he would be quite overwhelmed if you´d start telling a story about you annoying colleague. But, you know that already; and that´s the reason why you just say “good”. And that´s it.

However, I asked myself if it´s enough for me, personally, to get these unsatisfying answers to my questions, especially when I´m actually interested how my opposite is doing. I asked myself, what would happen if we just don´t ask these trivial phrases, if we ask specific and deeper questions where there is no fast answer like yes, good or fine. I´m thinking about all the interesting conversations which could develop out if this and how much more you´d get to know a person…

This isn´t an appeal to be unfriendly and impolite from now on, just because you actually don´t want to know how another person is doing; see this more as a little wake-up call for you and me, to skip these trivial phrases from time to time, for instance, with your friends, acquaintances or first dates and get straight to the core.

Okay, to start the new resolution right away, this is actually not a little wake-up call, this is a serious reminder for ourselves. We, the people who claim that they want to have strong and meaningful relationships in life. We need to keep in mind that we can´t accomplish this goal when we don´t give our words more value and honesty. I know it´s easily said, but harder to implement into reality, but how should our opposites open up towards us when they can´t be sure if we´re deeply interested in them?

So, the next time you´ll get in a situation like the described ones above, you´ll ask deeper questions and inquire more. Not only will you come across more interested, open-minded and empathetic; you´ll also experience deeper conversations which will broaden up your personal horizon.

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Published by Ann-Sophie Beyreiß, 14.05.2017