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Everyone lies. All lies are not equal, which is why lying is OK in some circumstances. The trick is to do the lies that are OK. The grey area is so complicated that Randy Cohen wrote an ethics column in the New York Times for years that addressed readers who asked, is this one of those times when I can lie?So here are things you need to know about lying:
1. Only people with psychiatric disorders refuse to lie.
Asperger’s is a social skills disorder. The biggest issue with people who have Asperger’s is not IQ — in fact, most people with this disorder are exceptionally intelligent. The issue is not understanding the unwritten social rules. For example, to someone with Asperger’s when you say “How are you?” answering “fine” would be a lie. So people with Asperger’s can’t figure out what to answer, and they stumble, because the real answer to “how are you?” is three or four hours long. It’s an essay question, not a true/false. One of the most important things that children with Asperger’s need to learn is how to see things are more nuanced than truth/not truth.
2. Telling the truth all the time is offensive.
New York City-based author AJ Jacobs wrote the bestselling book, My Year of Living Biblically. He tried to follow all the commandments in the Bible literally. For example, he didn’t cut his hair. For months. He brought sheep to pasture – but had to do it in Central Park. I hung out with him during the time he was taking the commandment “thou shall not lie” literally. It was not pretty.
When his wife asked, he told her she looked fat. He told his mum her kugel makes him sick. He said he did not want to go to a friends’ wedding because he’d rather watch the Mets. The result of the literal interpretation of thou shall not lie: Pissing a lot of people off. Because we don’t really believe that commandment is literal. We believe that “thou shall love and respect” trumps thou shall not lie. I would be nice if there did not have to be a hierarchy. But we are not in heaven, we’re on earth.
3. Some lies overcomes worse traits than lying.
People who are taller earn more money. For men, it comes out to $3000 a year for every inch. This is based purely on discrimination. So, if you lie about how tall you are in the interview, you might earn
another $3000 during negotiations, which seems fair to me because you are actually helping someone overcome their prejudice against short people.
Women should lie about their age. Around age 30, women without kids are penalised because they probably will have kids in the next few years and it’s annoying to the employer. This is a reasonable assumption by the employer – pregnant women take leave and that’s a pain for a company.
But it’s an illegal assumption. So it seems fine for women to say they are 27. No one will know and it will help the hiring manager to be a better person because he or she (yes, both genders do it) will not discriminate.
4. Men lie more effectively than women.
Men are most likely to lie about how much money they earn. Women are most likely to lie about their weight. Both lies are salary related. If you say you earn more in your current job, your new employer is
likely to pay you more. And fat women earn significantly less money than thin women. The problem here is that the people can see how much you weigh but he cannot see how much you earn. So the lying about
your weight thing is frivolous. Five pounds up or down means a lot to a woman if it’s five pounds on her own thighs. But the truth is, other people don’t notice. And they don’t care. So it’s an irrelevant lie.
I’m not saying women should stop lying about weight and age. I like those lies. And, in fact, I find that the best person for me to lie to about these topics is myself. If I tell myself I’m having a thin day, I am happier, even if I can’t fit into my thin-day jeans.
But women need to lie about salary. If men are all increasing their current salary by 10%, then women need to also. It’s not lying. It’s current-salary-inflation. Value is relative. Honesty requires a social
contract. In the case of salaries, women need to lie more in order to fit it into their environment. Because, after all, both men and women fitting into the workplace is what we all think is fair.