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5 problems with telling “little white lies" (DW#294)

We’ve been talking about speaking the truth and the kinds of lies that are far from the truth and the whole truth.

But what about "white lies", the harmless or trivial lies that we sometimes tell, especially to avoid hurting someone's feelings?

Well, according to Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author of the book, Lying, honesty is always the best policy.

"The people who undo their lives, and destroy relationships and careers, always accomplish this through lying," he says. "The decision to not lie is the best prophylactic i’ve ever come across for not bringing needless misery into your life."

Harris firmly believes we should stay away from all lies, including the "white" ones. "They tend to be the only lies that good people tell, while imagining that they are being good in the process," he says.

Here are some reasons that those white lies can damage relationships:

1. We undermine people’s trust.

When people overhear us lying to someone else, it tells them that...

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A third kind of lie {DW#293)

When people are asked to speak the truth under oath, it goes like this:

Do you swear to tell the truth (that is no lies of commission, saying exactly what happened)?

The whole truth (that is no lies of omission, leaving no major fact unspoken)?

And then there is a third statement "And nothing but the truth?", which may be less easy to understand.

Psychologists explain that this sentence is used to counteract what is called a character lie or a lie of influence.

In other words, sometimes people say something completely unrelated to the truth to cover up a lie. These lies are meant to make you believe the person who is lying or to make the person seem like such a great person that they are unlikely to be suspected of lying.

For example, suppose a person at your workplace is suspected of taking money from the cash registers. And it is your (most unpleasant) job to find out who it is. You interview one of the clerks and ask him if he took the money. He does not answer your question and...

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Speak the truth (DW#290)

The first foundation for mindful speech is to tell the truth. Speaking the truth is crucial for our relationship with ourselves, with God and with other people.

Our relationship with ourselves: Telling the truth allows us to live in alignment with our conscience which is ultimately what self esteem is based on. To put it another way, self esteem and self respect grows from living according to our values.

Our relationship with God: Not telling the truth impacts our relationship with God because our guilty conscience erects a barrier between the All Truthful and ourselves. Since He knows the truth and the lies that we speak, we feel ashamed to present ourselves in His presence.

Our relationship with others: Telling the truth is the basis of trust and credibility of our relationship with others. When we can trust another to be truthful, we can lay our guard down, relax and become intimate with another. On the other hand, a lack of trust keeps us anxious, vigilant and on guard –...

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Wise speech (DW#289)

We’ve all done it. Regretted saying something the moment it came out. We may have said it too harshly, or in a state of anger or not having paused to consider whether it was a good time.

Although we may apologize profusely (that is if we have the slightest desire to maintain the relationship), we get the sinking feeling that the hurt caused is deep and that healing it will take time.

Can we prevent such slips of the tongue which cause such damage to our relationships?

Maybe not entirely but we can certainly make progress towards minding our words if we THINK before we speak.

Here are some time-honored questions to consider in the pause before we speak:
Is what I am about to say:

T – True?
H – Helpful to the other person? To our relationship? To getting my
       message across?
I – Inspiring rather than discouraging?
N – Necessary? Is it necessary at this time?
K – Kind? Am I saying it in a way that is kind and respectful rather...

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A good Word (DW#288)

As we continue our series on mindful communication, let’s now talk about speaking.

The words that we speak are very powerful. They have the power to heal and they have the power to hurt.

The impact of words goes far beyond our immediate perception.

In verses 24 and 25 of Chapter 14 (The Chapter of Abraham), the Quran teaches us that a good word is like a good tree, whose root is firm and whose branches are in heaven. This tree, the Quran goes on, yields fruit in every season and that these are lessons for people who are mindful.

Scholars of scripture explain that among other meanings, this verse may also refer to the power of words spoken by us which are beneficial and helpful to others. The benefit of such words extends far beyond the immediate conversation and continues to benefit others and ourselves as they are reflected upon, shared and acted upon.

A pretty strong motivation to speak that which is useful, wouldn’t you say?

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Please listen!

Many therapists would go out of business if we listened with compassion and without judgement to our loved ones.

Here is a poem that conveys it rather eloquently.

Please Listen

When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving advice,
you have not done what I asked
nor heard what I need.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems,
you have failed me -- strange as that may seem.

Listen, please!
All I asked was that you listen.
Not talk nor "do"—just hear me.

Advice is cheap.

A quarter gets both "Dear Abby" and astrological forecasts
in the same newspaper.

That I can do for myself. I'm not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering -- but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself,
you contribute to me seeming fearful and weak.

But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I...

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Hold the advice!

 

Have you ever been to a doctor and found them writing a prescription before you'd finished saying what was wrong?

Have you ever told a friend (or a parent or a spouse!) about a problem and been told what to do about it before you had even finished telling them what the real issue was?

Have you ever had to grit your teeth while someone advised you to do things you had already tried because they didn't bother to ask what you'd already done?

It is a common experience to have people prescribing solutions before they have understood the problem, isn't it?

This is because we often don't get a key distinction in communication.

Listening and giving advice.

I know, I know. We spoke about this just last week. But it is just so important, that it is worth repeating.

Listening helps others to tell their stories. It requires putting our own agenda (and even our own expertise) on hold and simply "becoming a vessel into which others can pour their worries, their passions, their joys, their...

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Change your intention

According to the vast majority of experts on communication, most of us listen only with the intention to reply.

We filter what is said so that we can focus on what we can challenge.

We are having our own little conversation in our heads, coming up with a suitable response that will prove our point. Instead of listening, we are "just preparing to speak."

We act like lawyers for the prosecution and the defense and focus on how we can decimate our opponent and the premise of their argument.

Oops . . . did I say decimate? Did I say opponent?

Is this a person that we care about? A person that we are in relationship with? Is that not why they are trying so desperately to get through to us?

How about we put aside the cross examination skills that we may have learnt from Harvey Spectera and Alicia Florrick on TV just for the moment?

And try listening to understand.

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Why listening well is SO challenging

Listening well, as we began saying last week, is arguably one of the most challenging skills in communications. AND it is absolutely critical to building meaningful connections with others.

Let us try and understand some solid reasons why it is so challenging so that we can move beyond the challenges.

Firstly, a study at Princeton University found that there is a lag between what you hear and what you understand. Depending upon the individual, it could be between a few seconds to up to a minute.

This is where the trouble starts.

During that lag-time, we start to listen to ourselves and not to the other person. Have you noticed how you start having a conversation while another person is speaking? Making judgments and assumptions about they are saying and about to say?

While this is happening, of course our understanding of what the other is saying has plummeted.

What causes the lag time between hearing and understanding? Filters such as our physical and emotional state or external...

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How well do you listen?

Turns out that most of us think that we are better listeners than we are.

We may vocally interrupt while the other is speaking, change the conversation to something else, insert our own experience or say something to distract the other person.

And just because our tongues are silent while the other is speaking does not mean that we are actually listening, even though our ears may pick up the sounds emanating from the other person.

The vast majority of us are too busy in our own heads while we are in conversation with someone else. We might be formulating our response, making a witty comeback, poking holes in what the other person is saying, or telling our own counter-story to the story that the other person is telling.

In other words, we are having a conversation with ourselves in our heads while pretending to be listening to the other person.

That is why it is said that a "conversation is a vocal competition in which the one who is catching his breath is called the listener". As we...

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