Who knows how many lies we have believed in our time? Their impact may be trivial or profound, but the point is, we have and will continue to hold onto our ill-founded beliefs. Our relationship with the deceiver is not affected, because we believe them. In the work context, we may be happy in our ignorance.
The second category, is where most of the misery can be found. The discovery that one has been deceived frequently results in the well-known grief cycle of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Of course sometimes the deception is benign. For instance, a lot of jokes work by leading the listener up the wrong path, only to dramatically switch at the end. For instance, “I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my late father. And unlike his terrified passengers”.
Fortunately for most of us, the malign type of these deceptions are relatively rare, although they can be life changing.
On a day-to-day basis, can there be anything more grating than dealing with a colleague where you just know they are lying, and they must know that too.
The classic scenario is where you have come upon some information unbeknown to your colleague, and they merrily spin you an entirely misleading, contradictory or false account where there is no room for any doubt they know precisely what the true story is.
I had an example of this recently, from a serial offender. We all know the type. One of those that like to present themselves as better connected to more people than yourself, and who wants to keep it that way, subtly condescending by correcting your understanding of things. Intensely political, they pussy-foot around with non-committal remarks.
The type that would respond to a remark about an unexpected shower by saying the forecasts they saw clearly predicted the rain, but they won’t be drawn on what to expect next.
Depending on what is at stake and one’s self-confidence, listening to a colleague’s bare-faced lies can result in either exponential rises in systolic blood pressure, or wry detachment.
It is easy to speculate the contempt in which they hold you while they spin their stories. However it is not always sensible to take their lying as a sign of contempt. It may simply have become second nature and says more about their own sense of security than anything else.
It can be fun and revealing, if somewhat cruel, to play with such people by deliberately asking naive questions to see the extent to which they are prepared to obfuscate.
Finally there are those who do not realise they are deceiving. These include the deluded, the disempowered, the threatened, the unthinking and the insufficiently critical. For them, it is nothing personal, but they can wreak havoc in their own way too. Ain’t that the truth.
Jim Bright, FAPS is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU and owns Bright and Associates, a career management consultancy. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DrJimBright