- By Dr. Rick Albright
Three things about me (two are true):
- I am a registered Republican.
- My family has a pet dog named Sade.
- I cook meals regularly for my family.
Have you ever played “Two Truths and a Lie?” It is a small group activity commonly used as an icebreaker in the fields of education and counseling. The idea is that each person shares three brief things with the rest of the group about themselves. Two of those factoids are true and one is false. After each person shares their three statements, the other group members have an opportunity, in turn, to guess which one is the lie. After everyone has made their guess, the person sharing their three things reveals which one of the three isn’t actually true. I sometimes structure the activity using a point system for a little extra competitiveness – awarding points for fooling others as well as points for guessing correctly. While we are not exactly at the height of their respective popularity at this time, Will Smith played this game on the “Ellen” show a number of years ago and you can watch that clip on youtube to watch an example with the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlkI57ab0KQ
There are some great advantages to this activity. It allows people to get to know each other in a controlled way – with each person selecting what to share and what not to share – empowering them to authentically craft their own image – something people rarely get to do. Because people have control over what they share (and what they don’t share), it is often interpersonally and emotionally safe, allowing for positive and active participation. As an icebreaker, this is precisely the goal – normalizing active and positive participation from everyone. Depending upon what people share and in the best of circumstances, it can also allow for opportunities to break down stereotypes, nurture empathy, insight, and provide opportunities for bonding as people consider what they have in common with others. It also tends to heighten each group members’ awareness regarding nonverbal communication as they pay attention to not only what each person says, but also how they say it. Sometimes the best guessers identify changes in inflection or facial expressions which helps them to correctly identify the lie.
I have gotten so much mileage out of this activity over the years. As a group leader, I have also used it as an opportunity to allow my clients and/or my students to get to know me by playing the game with them. Having played and observed this activity quite a lot, I have reflected often on what makes the best lies – meaning the lies which tend to fool others most often. The best lies, in my experience, often have a grain of truth or they are mostly true, with an inaccurate detail, omission, or exaggeration. For example, some of the best lies sound something like this. “I have two sisters and one brother.” This can be conveyed quite convincingly when the truth might be that the person has two sisters and one step-brother. This approach is particularly effective when the two truths the person shares – reveal things about their lives which are, perhaps noteworthy or uncommon, such as “I have a pet snake.” or “I grew up on a farm.” The point of this essay, however, is not to give you advice on how to tell the best lies. Rather, I find that spotting lies to be a critically important life-skill in our modern world.
While I am typically good at fooling others while playing this game, I often find it quite difficult to discern truth. This is, unfortunately, pretty true for me in life as well. I believe that so much of what we hear, see, and read is motivated, directly and/or indirectly, by others striving for attention, affection, resources or influence. It seems to me like someone is always trying to sell me something – whether it is themselves, a product or a worldview, and their motivations are rarely altruistic. The better I am at spotting dishonesty, the better I am able to help my clients and the better decisions I can make for my family, my community, and for myself. It is just as important for me to understand that I have no control over others’ dishonesty.
I sometimes find myself getting upset when I discover that other people have been dishonest with me or others. It is important for me to remember that this is something I cannot control and guard myself against setting unrealistic expectations in this regard. Warren Buffett once said “Honesty is a very expensive gift. Don’t expect if from cheap people.” This is a tough one for me. I am naturally optimistic, even naïve from time to time. It is hard for me to assume that others are lying without becoming overly cynical and jaded. It is easier for me to accept that people often lie for good reasons, even if their dishonesty, in and of itself, is not a good thing to do. But there is at least one additional thing that I absolutely can do to make a difference, at least in my sphere of influence and it is the most important thing that I want to convey to you today.
I can do my best each and every day to be a person of integrity. Truth is valued by others, even in the world in which we live, perhaps especially in the world in which we now live. A person who shares truth (when necessary and with grace) and who differentiates and clarifies objective truth from their opinion or perspective is incredibly rare. I sometimes wonder if we, as a society, are doing a good enough job reinforcing for kids (and adults) the value of being honest, but also teaching people how to be honest, when to share honesty, and how to do so in a way that is helpful, but not hurtful. I think it takes intentional effort to be consistently and reliably honest. It often requires me to share my thoughts and perspectives with sentences that begin with “I feel…” and “I think…” and “I believe….”, as opposed to “The truth is that…”, or just stating my opinions or perspectives as truth. Does that make me sound as convincing as others? Perhaps not, but maybe in the long run, people will appreciate that I am not trying to sell them something and that they can trust the words that come out of my mouth. I don’t know that personal integrity is valued now as much as perhaps it once did, but it is important to me, in fact core to my character and identity. Lastly, many of you are in a position to teach and reinforce the importance of “honesty.” What an amazing opportunity you have to shape the future of our country and society.
By the way, do you have a guess which one of the three statements I started us with was the lie?
- Sade is, indeed, the name of our precious and spoiled Lab.
2. I am a casserole-cooking Dad.
3. I am registered as an Independent at this time, so this last statement was the correct pick. Kuddos to you if you caught the lie.
I leave you today with a few additional quotes regarding honesty to consider in your work and in your life this week.
“The first step is to be honest, and then to be noble.” – Winston Churchill
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” ― Albert Einstein
“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” – Mother Teresa
“If you’re truly honest with yourself, you’ll disturb some people, some of the time. If you don’t, you’re a sheep.” ― Maxime Lagacé
“Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it’ll always get you the right ones.” ― John Lennon
“Honesty is of God and dishonesty of the devil; the devil was a liar from the beginning.” ― Joseph B. Wirthlin
“Truth never damages a cause that is just.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
“No legacy is so rich as honesty.” ― William Shakespeare
“My word is my bond.” – Navy SEALs motto
“Friends don’t lie.” – Eleven from Stranger Things
“…and don’t say anything you don’t mean.” Jesus Christ from the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:33 (The Message)