Think about the last time that someone tempted us to utter a white lie. These usually take the form of a probing question, but we can also often find them when others are seeking opinions. How do we avoid the white lie when the social engineers of modern western culture would have us remain 'polite'? In the end just imagine who is to benefit if the social norm is that we all lie to one another. In response to probing questions we can simply respond with a simple and polite, "This is a really emotional subject for me. It causes too many emotions to discuss right now. Thanks for asking. I know that you really care about me." If we would have instead uttered a white lie, then the suggested response fits perfectly. If intense probing continues, then perhaps this individual is not truly seeking mutual respect and mutual benefit. It is honesty accompanied with empathy that provides the gateway to mutual respect, and it is the correct prescription to the folly of the white lie.
Imagine next the latter case. An acquaintance is seeking our opinion on a subject that is extremely sensitive for him or her. This being the more difficult case leads to the increased temptation to employ the bail out of the white lie. When we are asked our opinion on a sensitive subject this is only scratching the surface. This indicates to us that our companion is truly concerned about the topic. Possibly someone has humiliated them and caused a self-conscious worry. If someone asks us if we think they are x, we may show true empathy by responding, "You are worried about your x. X is really concerning you. I get the feeling that you are truly bothered." By responding in this manner, a statement not a question, we show that we have understood the root of the question. The superficial answer to the question itself is not important, but rather the reason why the question was asked. In this way we demonstrate that we are more concerned about what is happening to them on the inside. We have provided the opportunity for our friend to speak openly to us about the hurt that they are experiencing. The white lie would have kept this bottled up inside of them to suffer alone.
The white lie seems innocent, but it carries a significant hidden cost. Many opportunities to help others attack the root of a problem are missed. Additionally, we can find that we lose control of our own ability to reason. We are not in control of our own mind if we respond in a manner that society defines for us. We may even find our self caught up in mindless defense of ideas or positions in which we know we have erred. We are wrong but cannot admit our failure. We miss opportunities to learn from our own mistakes. We begin to lie to our own self to avoid facing the humility of our mistake. In the context of building a team, trust is best defined as the confidence among team members that their peers' intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. This team can only exist if each individual speaks from their heart in good conscious to achieve mutual benefit. Without this we may find that a web of lies surrounds us all. Could it be that we are all trapped in a world in which no one is telling the truth under the guise of protecting feelings?
Copyright © Robert Clinton Chedester 2012