When the Truth is a Lie

When the Truth is a LieWhat do you make of the following fun facts?[i]

  1. You could live the rest of your life without eating or drinking anything.
  2. Most people have more than the average number of legs.
  3. I’ve won as many Oscars as Glenn Close.

They feel a bit fishy, don’t they? And yet, every one of those statements is 100% true.

Technically.

You could live the rest of your life without eating or drinking. You just wouldn’t live long. And most people have two legs, but some people have fewer. So the average is lower than two. Finally, Glenn Close has been nominated for an Academy Award numerous times. But she hasn’t won any.

Welcome to the subtle art of being deceptive and truthful at the same time. It’s called “paltering,” and it’s alarmingly common.

Paltering is easier to stomach than lying. You can mislead with a clean conscience, or so the thinking goes. Plus, we tell ourselves others won’t be offended by paltering. I mean, you are speaking the literal truth, right?

Well, I have some bad news about that. A recent study found that people react just as negatively to paltering as they do to lying.[ii]

In other words, deception, even if it’s technically the truth, hurts trust. If you want a healthy, fulfilling relationship, honesty isn’t just the best policy. It’s the only policy.

But what do you do when being honest means telling him something he may not want to hear? Or something you simply don’t want to share?

The following strategy will help you be as honest as a cherry-tree-chopping George Washington while minimizing any negative impact on your relationship.

Continue reading