A few days ago, while waiting to be called for my appointment at the hair salon, I picked up a copy of Redbook Magazine. I flipped through the pages and found a survey Redbook conducted of 1,000 women. The survey was about lying. Here were the questions and results of the survey:
Honesty Takes a Backseat When:
- I’m trying to protect someone’s feelings: 58%
- Someone asks me something too personal: 19%
- I’m attempting to stay out of trouble: 12%
- I’m worried the truth will change someone’s opinion of me: 11%
I found this super interesting, especially in light of my last post. What I found so interesting is that besides the first reason of trying to protect someone’s feelings, all of the reasons are shame-based (although I can make an argument for ALL of them being shame-based, actually). If you read my last post, reason 4 should not surprise you at all, but the other two may not be as obvious.
- Someone Asks Me Something Too Personal:
Obviously, it’s our decision whether to answer a personal question or to decline divulging something that is none of the asker’s business. I firmly believe in placing boundaries, and that includes politely declining to answer a question that is too personal. But politely declining is clearly not the same as lying. It may feel uncomfortable to tell someone their question is too personal, so I think that is why 19% of those surveyed said they answer too-personal questions with lies. I think this is all tied to shame. And why is it uncomfortable? Because we are worried about what that person will think if we say that to them. They might think we’re rude. They might think we’re stuffy. They might think we have something to hide. They might think we’re bad. Boom, the connection is lost. I get it, I really do. In fact, my husband and I discussed this very issue when I wrote my last post. We considered that some readers might think the omissions I made at the beginning of our relationship were much worse than what they actually were. By not divulging any details, I ran that risk. And by stating that he had experienced something similar to what I had experienced and not told him, we ran the risk that people might think his experience was worse than what it was. Despite this, I clearly decided to go ahead with what I wrote – absent the gritty (haha) details and all. So I definitely understand worrying about what people will think and wanting to answer in a way that will prevent others from thinking whatever “worst” they come up with, but if what is said is a lie, most likely it will cause harm and create further disconnect. If we’re all just honest with one another, there is such a better chance for connection. Saying something like, “I don’t feel comfortable answering that question,” is sufficient. Remember, boundaries.
- I’m Attempting to Stay Out of Trouble:
This is a good one. I’m fairly certain we have ALL been there. My husband and I have an ongoing battle with this with my step-kids, and a battle it is. But it’s not limited to children, and it goes to vulnerability and again, revealing ourselves. Who wants to get in trouble? I think the desire to stay in good graces stays with us our entire lives. But I know I don’t need to tell you that lying to stay out of trouble almost always backfires. My husband and I tell my step-kids (and every time we do it serves as a reminder to me – because let’s be honest, it is an ongoing struggle) that lying to stay out of trouble will always result in, wait for it, getting in trouble! If we admit our truth, we may still get “in trouble.” If we hide from it, we will never experience the vulnerability that could lead to deeper connection.
- I’m Worried the Truth Will Change Someone’s Opinion of Me:
And this is the big one. This has shame written ALLLLLLL over it. Obviously, I do not have to tell you that I have been there. If we’re being honest, haven’t we all been there? Whether it’s a “little white lie” or a whopper of a tale, we edit our life stories and what we tell someone in order to be thought of in the best possible light. The fear of disconnection is powerful, and it tricks us into believing that we will be much better off painting ourselves a certain way. But here’s the problem: if we’re all, (yes, I realize only 11% owned up to this, but I have a sneaking suspicion shame kept a lot more from admitting they lie for that reason) lying about who we are and what we’ve done, aren’t we doing the disconnecting ourselves? And what if when we tell the truth, we receive a “me too” response? What if we get, “I’ve been there”? That’s a connection. Making that connection is incredibly powerful, and a lie all but guarantees that chance for connection will be forever lost.
I had to laugh when I read that survey – not because it’s funny, but because when you start to look at things through the lens of shame, surveys like this and their results are not at all surprising. Plus, it speaks to exactly what I have been writing about. It was just so timely.
I think we can be honest and still set boundaries. I think we can be honest and still be accepted. I think we can be honest and still be secure in who we are.
And that brings me to the first survey option – When I’m trying to protect someone’s feelings. So yeah, this is a tough one. Unless you’re cold and heartless – or lashing out, most people don’t want to intentionally hurt someone’s feelings. But isn’t that based in the fear of how our truth will be received? Yes, it’s about protecting the other person, but I think the truth can be told and feelings can be protected in most situations. I’m certainly no expert, but I just think when we shy away from the truth, for whatever reason, it all comes down to us. It’s almost always about how we feel about ourselves and how we want others to view us.
Now, I did not see the actual survey, just the results, so this is only speculation, but the numbers add up to 100%, so it appears the survey participants were asked to select one answer out of the four options. Given this, I am not at all surprised that 58% selected the first option. After all, if you’re going to fess up to lying, why not choose the answer that is most acceptable? I think a better survey would be to ask people to select all of the reasons for which they have lied in the past. If that were the survey, I believe the results would show 100% across the board… if everyone taking it answered honestly, of course. Ha.
So read the survey questions again and think about it for a moment. What would the results be if you took the survey? If you could only select one answer, what would you choose? And more importantly, why?
2 thoughts on “survey says”
This is so insightful, Valerie. It helps me in thinking about how I communicate with my daughters when I am wondering about their truthfulness. It helps to understand the motivation behind white lies and how my critical or overreactive responses might make lying the better option. This is so helpful. Thank you for this!
Rachel, Thanks for your comments. I think it is so tough to not be critical or overreactive when we believe our children (or others, for that matter) are not being truthful with us. One thing we have found is that often they are trying to answer with what they THINK we want to hear. We try to remind them every time this comes up that all we want is the truth, no matter what the truth is, and we do not have any expectations of what they might say. While this does not completely solve the problem, I do believe it helps… at least a little!