Tuesday, February 14, 2006

...Honesty: Is It Really The Best Policy?

One of the more interesting aspects of human behavior is the way we tend to protect each other from hurt feelings by intentionally failing to tell the whole truth a lot of the time. I’m sure everyone has had the experience of going out on a date with someone who you have no desire to ever see again. But rarely do people actually say, “Frankly, you’re just not good-looking enough for me” or “You know, you really have one of the least interesting personalities I’ve ever come across”. Instead people generally come up with a more polite, if far less honest, generic excuse like, “You seem nice, but I’m not looking to get into a long-term relationship right now” or some similar response intended to dull the sting.

I do this myself instinctively sometimes. As I was walking out of the grocery store the other day some guy approached me trying to sell a newspaper subscription, to which I immediately responded that I already received home delivery. A total lie, but I figured this way it would make him feel less personally rejected than if I had just told him I had no interest.

On my blog, I’ve always been amazed at the fact the comments I receive in reaction to my posts have been overwhelmingly positive. Sure, when someone who used to comment a lot stops showing up I can guess maybe they’ve lost interest in my writing or when a particular post receives far fewer comments than normal, maybe it wasn’t my best work. But never has anyone actually outright said, “Your writing pretty much stinks” or “That attempt at humor really fell flat”.

Because we tend to protect each other with flowery language and doublespeak, it comes as quite a shock when we are spoken to bluntly. Such as today, when after I had completed a sales demonstration to a group of teachers at a local school, the department head who arranged the meeting said to me, in no uncertain terms, that in his opinion our demo pretty much sucked.

Another interesting aspect of human behavior – Upon hearing this, instead of thinking, “I really need to reevaluate how we can present this product more effectively”, my first thought was, “That guy is an idiot”.
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