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How Often do you Engage in “Prosocial Deception”?

White lies

A “Prosocial Deception” is a falsehood spoken without the intent to harm i.e. a white lie: “minor or unimportant lie, especially one uttered in the interests of tact or politeness or to minimize harm, embarrassment or distress, often considered harmless, or even beneficial, in the long term.” White lies take many forms, including:

– Out and Out Lies
– Softened truths
– Careful omissions

When we tell lies, we do a form of mental calculus. We weigh the benefits of the lie, both to ourselves and to the other against the downside, the odds of being caught, and the consequences thereof; a cost/benefit analysis that has as much to do with our personality as our value system. What value do we put on time? Some will do most anything to postpone the time of reckoning, even for a short period. Others would just as soon face the consequences now and get it over with. What value do we put on the relationship; on social discomfort, ours v. others?

Factors to Consider:

– Are you being kind? “Selfish Honesty”: bluntness for the sheer sake of itself can border on cruelty; not every truth needs to be verbalized; does it help the situation? The person? Make the world a better place?

– Will the truth come out anyway? Do not compliment someone’s idea to their face and then oppose it elsewhere!

– Is there a better time to tell the full truth? More private time/place? Less stressful? If there is little a person can do at the moment about it, is it the best time to add pressure?

– Will the truth hurt or help?

– Is it your discomfort or theirs (or mutual) you are concerned about?

– Does the Golden Rule apply? Would you want to be told the same lie?*

– If your lie is fear based, is this a fear that you need to confront? (Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway; The Cave We Fear to Enter Holds the Treasure We Seek; Do the Thing You Fear and the Death of Fear is Certain; Our Fears often Point the Way to Our Greatest Growth)

– Does the other need to hear the truth (and in the current context) in order to grow? (“Would that some power give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us” – Robert Burns; being an accurate, if gentle, social mirror is one of the greatest gifts of friendship)

* “A lie is a form of power over someone—it is deceiving the other person in some way—and it can be useful to ask oneself if you would want someone else to deceive you in the same situation,” – William Doherty, marriage and family therapist and professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier

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