Tuesday, September 10, 2013

To Be Completely Honest, I'm Not Gonna Lie

To be honest, of late I’m having issues with people insisting on how honest they’re being.

I’m not gonna lie. We’ve seen a noticeable uptick in our vernacular use of phrases regarding our truthfulness. Although I’m quick to point out when others around me fall victim to this habit, even I get caught up in it from time to time.

Honestly, it’s aggravating as hell how dang frank we apparently are.

To be completely honest, are people who say things like this over and over, time and again, accidentally revealing something about themselves?

If you introduce every fifth or sixth sentence in a dialogue with an introductory or closing phrase intended to remind the listener that you are, in that moment and in that sentence, being truthful or candid, what exactly does it suggest about the other four or five sentences that come without such caveats?

And what exactly is “complete honesty,” anyway? Is there some gap between regular honesty and complete honesty, the same kind of difference between regular unleaded gas and premium unleaded gas? Maybe our conscience operates at acceptable levels on Regular Honesty, but it kicks into another gear completely and keeps our soul engines running longer on Premium Honesty.

Dan Ariely is something of a (dis)honesty expert. He’s got a book, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, waiting in my “To Read” shelf. The only person I’ve watched more on TED/RSA Talks is Sir Ken Robinson.

In short, his specialty is telling us what we know but pretend we don’t, which is that (1) all of us lie, (2) few of us lie sociopathically, and (3) most of us think of ourselves as “completely honest” when we in fact wouldn’t live up to government standards for “Regular Honest.”

Let’s be clear (another of my favorites, #thanksObama), if we are generationally different than our predecessors, it’s a question of mere degrees and not full turns. We are, generationally less honest than previous generations, but only because we are confronted with many more opportunities to be dishonest. Percentage-wise, I’d reckon we’re every bit as honest if not moreso. We’re also, as Ariely puts so well, generally and increasingly distanced from the objects and victims of our deceptions.

I’m not gonna lie. My wife knows I can’t stand these little annoying clarifiers. She thinks we use them because they’re attempts at softening a harsh comment. A sort of nouveau Bless Your Heart.

To be honest, I disagree. Just as we are offered more opportunities to lie or deceive, we are also vastly more aware of this capacity in others. We are, that is, more Deception Literate. And I think these clarifiers are our contemporary way of acknowledging this unfortunate reality:

“I know you could lie. And you know I could lie. And we both know this could happen with any and every sentence that comes out of our conversation, to one degree or another. So I’m going to, once in a while, inject a harmless reminder into my speech that will serve to remind you that I treat you with respect, and that I could lie but choose not to.”

But again, to be completely honest, I think even that’s bullcrap. I think we say it because deep down, we’re all too aware of how deceptive and misleading even our most basic daily conversations have become, how much of our lives is spun, how much of our environment is spinning.

I’m not gonna lie, we don’t like it, but honestly, we seem resigned to lie -- lay? -- in the more connected, more dishonest bed we’ve made.


Sara said...

Agree with that sir ken (1) and Dan Ariely (2) ranking. Disagree that we use these phrases for any reason other than they have become one of our collective verbal tics. Just being honest.

Bob said...

I'm surprised by Sara's disagreement. I'd have expected her to quote Hamlet:

Methinks the lady doth protest too much.