Liar! Liar! Pants On Fire!

What credibility does a liar possess?

If you lie 0% of the time, you have 100% credibility. The relationship is not linear though. If you lie 5% of the time, it is pretty unlikely you have 95% credibility. Somewhere higher than 5% lies, you have no credibility among the people who actually pay attention to you and try to use what you say to arrange their own lives and affairs.

“A lair will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth”

Aesop died 564 BC. Some things never change.

Some people use the liar label to discredit a competitor. Be cautious.

There are many liars we meet

I suppose we first think of politicians, but that may be unfair. The fault within their lies is on us. We expect them to talk a certain way and to hold views for public consumption, even if they have no intent to implement. Consider a politician who has strong opinions about needed efforts, speaks his mind, and tries to implement.

We have an adjective for that politician – unelectable.

Should our leaders do what is required?

That’s easy to answer. They cannot.

“Required” is not a fact. It is a preference, and for every ten people in favour, there are likely six or more opposed. Governor Mike Huckabee once stated he thought you could not get a unanimous vote approving motherhood.

The reality for politicians is politics is the art of the possible. They know they can accomplish nothing unless they are the elected member.  To accomplish even a little of what they think is needed involves compromise, a narrative and the ability to raise money. It is a mistake to believe they spend their time doing only the work of the people.

Who can judge the lie?

How rooted in ideology is the observer’s position. If someone tells something you don’t want to hear, do you dismiss it? If you do, you must be able to assemble reasons that make the lie within obvious. It is not enough for a strongly held belief to invalidate other ideas and even facts.

In court, a person must be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A doubt with a verifiable or evidentiary reason. Not just a whim. The same for assessing lies.

If “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” were true, distinguishing the lies would be far easier.

Some liars are entertaining.

My personal favorite in this regard is Bob Arum. He is the founder and CEO of Top Rank, a boxing promotion business in Las Vegas. (Where else?)

Boxing promoters have an uneven reputation and Bob is among the more successful. He understands the game of promotion. He understands life too.

On two consecutive nights, he and others were drinking heavily and arguing about the best boxer of all time. One night he argued strongly for one of his clients. On the second night he argued for someone else. New York based Newsday reporter, Bob Waters, called him on it. Never at a loss, he replied the way I wish politicians would reply when they contradict themselves.

“Yesterday I was lying. Today I am telling the truth.”

When does a contradiction not rise to the level of lie?

Changing your mind about something is not a lie. Which would be worse? To continue with a previous position when circumstances have changed, or change your mind.

In the world of sound bites, and social media, it is easy to characterize someone as a liar when they are, being both inconsistent and honest. John Maynard Keynes seems to have the top position on this.

“When I have new information, I change my mind. What do you do?”

Most of the lies we see described in the media are contextual.  Essentially, given this perspective, what that person said is a lie. From that, we assume a malignant purpose and put the person in your unreliable person basket. Exactly what the commentator intended.

If you don’t know the commentator’s context position, and have no evidence to support their assessment other than some data-mined detail, you will be easily mislead. Try to assess context in a more global way.

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.  866-285-7772

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