Updates from Chicago Booth

Why we should teach people how to lie
By Chana R. Schoenberger – Could you handle being honest—totally, brutally truthful, without even a well-intentioned falsehood to smooth over a social situation—for three days?

Most people don’t think they could, at least not without ruining their family, social, and work lives. Fibs, white lies, and half-truths (along with, perhaps, more egregious whoppers) are such an important part of our interpersonal tool kit that going without them seems next to impossible.

But Chicago Booth’s Emma Levine, along with Carnegie Mellon’s Taya R. Cohen, asked exactly that of a group of research subjects and came away with a surprising conclusion: it’s not as bad as it sounds.

The researchers asked some participants to be completely honest in every interaction, with every person in their lives, for three days, while other participants were asked simply to be kind or conscious of their words. The participants predicted that being forced into honesty would make them unhappier than if they had to be kind or just aware of what they were saying to others. They anticipated frayed relationships as a result of abandoning the lies they typically use to cover up awkward or uncomfortable situations.

But being honest didn’t torpedo subjects’ friendships, family connections, or jobs.

“The experience of being honest is far more pleasurable, leads to greater levels of social connection, and does less relational harm than individuals expect,” Levine and Cohen write. more>

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