People want you to lie to them.
No one wants to hear what you honestly think of their new outfit, drug habit, disrespectful boyfriend or their decision to sleep around without protection. Nobody wants to hear what you actually think…. if it negates what they themselves think or want to hear.
Whether the reason is denial or self-importance or unrealistic expectations of the people in their lives, people would rather you grin and bear it and tell them a bold-faced lie than have to buck up and swallow the truth. To accept themselves as less than perfect.
Once, I was with this guy, let’s call him Notjake. Notjake got a new haircut, which I hated. I thought it looked ridiculous. He, on the other hand, could have walked around wearing ice cream cone suspenders, a tube top and magenta biker shorts, and I would have still thought he was the most beautiful person alive.
So I wasn’t too worried about the haircut. It’s hair. Who cares? Apparently, Notjake did. We were in the car driving home, and I could tell he wanted me to comment on it. Which of course was a trap. Because I already knew the cardinal rule: People want you to lie to them. I try to be a woman of integrity. I wasn’t about to lie to make him feel better. Instead of saying I hated it, I chose not to say anything at all.
We rode in awkward silence for a bit until he couldn’t take it anymore and mentioned said haircut. I simply replied, “Yes, you got a new haircut. Do you like it?” To which he replied, “Yes, I really do.” I said “Great! That’s all that matters!” and hoped that that would be the end of it.
Well, I may as well have just blurted out that I hated it for the reaction my silence elicited. He got so pissed at me that the veins in his neck started bulging. He accused me of being a bad person and not supporting him. He yelled. We fought. I still hated his haircut. And at that moment, I didn’t much like him either. It’s not like I said “You look like your head got run over by a lawn mower.” Or simply, “Baby, I hate your new haircut.” He wasn’t pissed at me for what I said. No. He was pissed at me because I refused to lie to him.
He put me in a lose-lose situation during which, I just kept thinking, why the hell would anyone rather someone they love lie to them? What was it he wanted in the first place? What is it that people really want when they would rather hear a lie than the truth?
My guess is that people are really just looking for support and validation of themselves and their decisions. This person was so in need of my approval regarding his new haircut that he would have preferred that I smile and lie with, “It’s great, I love it!” rather than receive the approval that I was offering: “You love it? That’s great! Who cares what I think!”
Here’s another example. Say we have a guy friend whose girlfriend is a total skank and is sleeping around with his best friend. If we tell him about his girlfriend, 9 times out of 10, he’s going to get mad at us. Why? Because people want you to lie to them. For whatever reason, he doesn’t want to hear the truth. Perhaps he’s not ready to hear it. Perhaps he has his suspicions but is trying to hold on to the facade. Perhaps, he is too weak to let go.
Reflect on all the times you’ve lied to someone to avoid conflict. A silly example is that commercial where the woman asks, “Honey, do these pants make my butt look big?” Of course they made her butt look big! But was he at liberty to say that? No. It was a trap. What she wanted was a lie. It happens all the time. Mothers with sons. Fathers with daughters. Between siblings, coworkers and friends. We’ve all had to do it at one time or another. It’s uncomfortable, it’s painful, and it’s wrong. So why do we do it? And more importantly, why do we set others up where they have no choice but to lie to us or suffer our wrath?
What would have happened if this old boyfriend of mine had called me before picking me up from work and said, “I got a new haircut. I really like it, but I’m worried you aren’t going to like it. You don’t have to like it, but it’s going to hurt my feelings if you don’t. I’ll get over it. I just wanted to tell you so you’re not put On The spot. ”
I would’ve gotten in the car, perhaps said, “You’re right, I don’t like it. But you do, so work it, baby!” or something equally dorky. We would’ve had a respectful, honest conversation about it. Perhaps joked and laughed about it. Because honestly, in the scheme of things, his haircut mattered not an iota. Why? Refer to the section up there where I mentioned suspenders and magenta biker shorts. But saying something even remotely close to the imagined conversation up there would have involved vulnerability. it would have involved him admitting that he not only cared what I thought, but that he needed me to approve. Anything less than approval was crushing. And he couldn’t admit that to me because he couldn’t even admit it to himself.
Our western culture spends so much time and energy teaching us that we need to control life and people, their reactions and how they feel about us that we’ll often go to great lengths to avoid disapproval or disappointment.
The irony in that is this: not a damn thing happens to us if someone disapproves of us. Notjake wouldn’t have died even if I’d said, “That hair has to GO!” The measures he went to to avoid his discomfort at my disapproval caused a lot more damage than the disapproval itself. We didn’t speak for a while. A piece of our intimacy fell away. I couldn’t trust him. I couldn’t be real with him anymore.
Plain and simple, people want you to lie to them. If you choose not to lie and instead tell the truth, or better yet, plead the fifth, you are accused of being a bad friend. Of not being supportive. Of trying to be someone’s mother. Or any one of a million different things that do not mean you are a person of integrity, you care about the other person or that you wish to remain in a state of non-hostility.
It’s unfortunate we do this to one another, and it’s time we started taking ownership of our adult selves. This includes being people of integrity. This includes not forcing folks to choose between a rock and a hard place.
Rock your ugly haircut! Shake your big booty! And love yourself regardless of what anybody else thinks! That will feel a whole lot more empowering than forcing people you love to tell you the sky is green when everybody knows damn well that it ain’t.