Truth and Lying Are Not Symmetric

If I am a baseball player and I bat .300 that means I reach base safely 30% of the time. Batting average is symmetric.  I make out 70% of the time.

Suppose instead I look at credibility.  If I lie 30% of the time, is the complement 70% credibility? Unlikely.  More like 0%.  Lying and credibility are not in linear symmetry.

Most people are able to avoid outright lies because they are usually not that hard to notice.  What about hype, spin and part truth? Much harder to see early on, maybe never. While not so much of a blunt instrument as an outright lie, they still reduce credibility.  Again the loss of credibility is not symmetric with the incidence of spin.

The most common methodology for politicians, salespeople, advertising people and many others is a statistical fact that is sort of obvious, but on deeper examination is clearly meant to mislead.  For example, if I make the assertion that for all production over the last 10 years, 98% of Teslas are still on the road.  That implies great durability, but the fact that almost none were produced more than five years ago would minimize the value of the objectively “true” statement.

Ipana tooth paste invented the idea of visiting your dentist every six months.  Without Coca-Cola, we would not recognize Santa Claus.  Zoom Zoom.

Truth is far more complicated than objective fact.

We can readily dismiss things that are false, but hazy truth is more difficult.  Truth is two-sided.

One side is the objective fact.  The other is how we, as individuals, relate to the objective fact. Most of us carry unconscious biases that color the facts to be what we wish them to be.  For each of us, truth becomes something that is at least a little objective and in agreement with our world view.

The negotiation of positions regarding objective facts becomes about differences in world view and not about differences in the perceived facts. Negotiating a change in worldview is difficult.

People share the same worldview, but differ, often greatly, on how to implement. How many people do you know that have values that do not include:

  1. I will be safe
  2. I will be adequately fed
  3. I will be adequately sheltered
  4. My children will have education and opportunities
  5. I will be able to do useful work and contribute meaningfully to society
  6. I will have friends and family
  7. I will love and be loved.
  8. I can follow my own path

Most people hold most of those, and yet a radical socialist and a radical capitalist could share those beliefs without agreeing on any part of how to achieve them.

When arguing or negotiating with anyone, it is smarter to find commonality first. Growing forward from shared space is much more productive than trying to turn around a belief system.

You will find there is no such thing as “objectively right.”  Don’t depend on facts. Disputing strongly held beliefs with facts will change not a single mind.

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  don@moneyfyi.com  866-285-7772

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