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Sometimes, Honesty Is Not The Best Policy

Sometimes, Honesty Is Not The Best Policy

Liar, liar pants on fire. No one wants to get caught in a lie and appear to be dishonest or deceptive. But does telling a lie actually make you either of those things?

The truth is, there are some advantages to lying; and they aren’t always for self-gain. Sometimes people choose to lie to protect others and spare their feelings. Because let’s face it, the truth hurts.

    Why do we even lie?

    We all need to take a moment to be honest with ourselves and admit that we all lie. It is in our innate nature to deceive and sometimes protect.

    Yes, we sometimes tell lies to cover up bad behavior, manipulate others, or rise to power and attain what we want.

    But we also lie to spare the feelings of others, avoid unnecessary conflict, or to simply brighten up someone’s day.

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    Dishonesty is in our nature.

    Researchers believe that the act of lying came into play after the development of language. It is the evolution of deceptive strategy, just as animals use camouflage to deceive their predators or prey.

    In terms of efficiency, lying is the easiest way to rise to power and attain resources. If your enemy is larger and stronger than you, then physical force will not be very effective. But if you are able to outwit and manipulate your enemy; not only can you acquire their resources, but make them believe that it was their idea own idea.

    How often do we lie?

    This of course is relative to the individual. The frequency of lying was first documented by social psychologist Bella DePaulo.

    She asked 147 individuals to record their blips of dishonesty throughout the day. On average, her subjects lied at least twice a day. The lies themselves were relatively harmless in nature; innocuous excuses for instances such as lateness. Or fibs that present a false image; saying that you ran 5 miles instead of the truthful 2.

    We’ve been fibbing since we learned to talk.

    In actuality, we are conditioned to lie at a young age. Didn’t your parents tell you to always thank your host for that “delicious” meal that you had to choke down? Social graces aside, it’s still a lie.

    Children typically learn to lie between the ages of 2-5. Kang Lee, a psychologist from the University of Toronto studied children between the ages of 2-8 to gauge the kind of lies that children tell.

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    When children first begin to lie at the age of 2, it is an indication that they are starting to test out their independence. They lie simply to see what they can get away with.

    By the age of 8, the children actually have the capacity of lying to spare the feelings of others. The results of the study actually found that these lies are motivated by empathy and compassion rather than deceit and manipulation.

      Lying is a reflection of our goals.

      Sometimes you don’t even need to open your mouth to tell a lie. A simple facial expression is enough to convey a mistruth.

      Embellishments, exaggerations, these are the close counterparts to outright lies. But in this case, these lies are almost never malicious. But in fact, a projection of one’s aspirations.

      In an experiment conducted by Robert Feldman, he questioned a number of students about their grades and efforts in school. Most of them were dishonest about their actual grades. But instead of becoming anxious as most people do amidst a lie, they became incredibly engaged and excited to boast about their achievements.

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      “We lie if honesty won’t work”- Tim Levine

      Is there a difference between moral and immoral lying? If we’re being honest with ourselves, the answer is a resounding yes. Some lies are well intentioned- meant to protect those who are being lied to.

      Lying has even been found to have psychological benefits for the liar. Those who are extremely honest with themselves are more prone to depression than those who are not. Overtly honest people are often construed as blunt, sometimes even pathological.

      There are even interpersonal benefits to be gained from lying and knowing when it is okay to do so. In fact, if someone detects that you have lied to them to protect them, it could increase the trust that they have in you.

      These well intentioned lies are known as pro-social lies.

      Lying for the better good.

      Pro-social lying involves four distinct constructs of human capacity: theory of mind, compassion, memory and imagination.

      In this case, our choice to lie is a result of moral and emotional reasoning. We prioritize kindness over the importance of truth to spare other persons involved. As our brains develop, our moral reasoning progresses at the same rate as self-control as well as cognitive ability.

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      Further still, the most selfless of lies is known as a blue lie. These lies tend to be altruistic falsities that are actually told at the cost of the liar to protect someone else. In this case, we might subject ourselves to punishment for the wrongdoing of others.

        Honestly, lying isn’t so bad.

        What determines the magnitude of the lie is the intent behind it. Lies that are told to protect others can actually help to strengthen relationships. Other lies that are told to embellish ones image are debatably harmless.

        It all boils down to one fact- we all have our reasons for the lies that we tell and the facts that we choose not to share. At the end of the day, what we don’t know won’t hurt us. Sometimes a tiny lie is necessary to ensure that all is well and all runs smoothly.

        Featured photo credit: Movies with Mae via google.com

        More by this author

        Anna Chui

        Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the Content Strategist of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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        Last Updated on August 6, 2020

        How to Train Your Brain to Be Optimistic

        How to Train Your Brain to Be Optimistic

        Let’s be honest. When you’re going through a difficult time in life, doesn’t it drive you crazy when someone says, “just be optimistic”?

        Everyone has that one overly-optimistic “Positive Pam” friend who sees the good in everything. Trying to find anything to be happy about when you’re struggling feels unrealistic.

        The question remains: “Why is it difficult to pull upon happy thoughts when everything in life feels like it’s falling apart?”

        Well, the root of the problem lies in the brain. Your brain isn’t designed for happiness because its focus has always been on promoting survival, it saves the happy chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin) for opportunities to meet a survival need.[1]

        While all of this is true, it is still possible to train your brain to be optimistic so that you can find the silver lining amidst life’s greatest adversities.

        You Can’t Be Positive All the Time

        Before I talk about how you can do this, you must realize that you aren’t expected to be positive 100% of the time. You’re human and life happens.

        Have you ever had a solid plan in place, and then life comes along and says, “Let’s explore rock bottom for a while instead?!” You’re allowed to feel sad, angry, or negative sometimes.

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        However, the trick is making sure that you don’t live in this place for too long. Disempowering emotions serve their purpose in the short-term but can become destructive to your overall quality of life in the long-term.

        When it comes to thinking positively, I think a lot of people have a skewed understanding of what positivity should look like. You don’t have to sing in the rain or smile 24/7 to be deemed a positive person.

        Appreciating the smallest of things can work wonders for your mindset, such that, over time, you start wiring your brain to seek out and expect more positives. This speaks to the power of having an attitude of gratitude.

        Research has shown that gratitude can improve general well-being, increase resilience, strengthen social relationships, and reduce stress and depression.[2]

        The more grateful you are, the happier you are.

        So, what does all of this mean? Well, happiness won’t always be your automatic response. Rather, it’s a choice that you have to make every single day.

        3 Ways You Can Train Your Brain to Be Positive

        Similar to any habit, your brain conditions itself to think and behave in certain ways through repetition. Thus, if you engage in daily rituals that enhance your positive thinking, over time you will rewire and train your brain to become more positive.

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        Let’s talk about 3 ways that you can train your brain to be positive:

        1. Challenge Negative Thoughts

        Your mind is a powerful tool – you can either fill it with positive thoughts or negative ones. The average person has thousands of thoughts per day, 80% of which are negative, and 95% of which are exactly the same thoughts as the day before.[3]

        If you’re like most people, you probably spend a lot of time in your head. This is where your inner critic loves to hang out and try to convince you of all the reasons why you’re not good enough or why things won’t work out.

        Not surprisingly, if you play this disempowering record over and over again in your head, eventually you will start believing it.

        People get into trouble when they define who they are based on how they think. You are not your thoughts, so don’t believe everything that you think. This is why it’s so important to practice challenging your negative thoughts.

        The next time that you have a thought that doesn’t serve you, stop and reflect upon whether or not that thought is accurate. Once you determine where the fallacy is in your thinking lies, step back and ask yourself, “Is this thought building me up or tearing me down?” If it’s the latter, reframe the negative thought to a more empowering one.

        The fastest way to change your life is to change your narrative. Small shifts in your mindset can trigger a massive shift in how you perceive yourself, others, and the world.

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        2. Surround Yourself With Positive People

        Your success in life is determined, in large part, by your environment. If you want to be an optimistic person, you have to surround yourself with optimistic people. End of story.

        As Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

        Take a moment and think about your close circle of friends. Are they inspiring and driven people who uplift and empower you? Or are they lazy, negative, and toxic?

        If it’s the latter, I hate to break it to you, but it’s time to find new friends.

        When you surround yourself with positive people, you’re more likely to adopt empowering beliefs and see life as happening for you instead of to you.[4]

        Decide who you want to be and find people who embody those traits. When you raise your standards, your circle will change and so, too, will your life.

        3. Make Your Mental Health and Well-Being a Priority

        The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a drastic increase in mental health issues. The isolation, fear, uncertainty, and economic turmoil that people are facing around the world is a breeding ground for psychological distress.[5]

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        Given the current state of our world, there has never been a more important time for us to make our mental health and well-being a priority.

        The question remains, “How do you stay positive when everything sucks?”

        It’s all a matter of perspective.

        We know that the mind and body are connected. If you ignore one, the other one suffers equally as much. Research has found that taking care of ourselves physically and mentally can influence our happiness and train our brains over time to be more positive.[6]

        Looking after your mind and body means creating a daily self-care ritual, consisting of eating healthy foods, exercising, meditating, doing yoga, staying connected with friends, journaling, reading, and practicing affirmations, to name a few.

        Anything that helps you manage your stress and connect with the present moment is key. Even in the most challenging of times, it is always possible to find something to be grateful for. By choosing to focus on what is good in your life and what makes you happy, you will grow stronger in the face of adversity.

        Now Is the Time to Train Your Brain to Be Optimistic

        Your mindset is everything. Thinking positively is as important as your skills or talents. We cannot always control our outer world, which is why it’s imperative to cultivate a strong inner world.

        How you respond to adversity will determine your success in life. Have faith, trust in yourself, and believe in what is possible. When you think positively, positive things will happen.

        More Tips on How to Be Optimistic

        Featured photo credit: Dayne Topkin via unsplash.com

        Reference

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