The art of lie detection fascinates many people, especially those of us that work in the police, military, and courts. Since the classic lie-detector machine, the polygraph, is often unreliable, people conducting research into lies have spent a lot of effort on identifying the signs that could reveal a lie. They’ve made some good progress. But what do we really mean when we use the word “lie”? Everyone should feel safe and supported to talk about employee wellbeing with their line manager.
Most of us lie all the time, in the sense that what we say doesn’t accurately represent the true state of affairs. Our social rules presuppose a large number of trivial lies. If we’re asked, “How are you doing?” we’ll often answer, “Fine, thanks, and you?” even when we feel anything but fine. We know that the person who asked the question isn’t actually interested in a detailed description of our state and is simply using it as a phrase of greeting. Talking about mental health first aid is a good step forward.
In some situations, we’re expected to lie and display something other than our true feelings. In a beauty pageant, it’s OK for the winner to cry and be emotional, while the runners up have to show how happy they are for the winner and be strong about their loss. If they would all show how they really felt, we’d probably get to see the finalists in tears and the winner shrieking with laughter and happiness. To hide your emotions, or to pretend to feel something other than what you really do feel, is another form of lying. There are small, simple steps you can take to make mental health in the workplace something that people can talk about.
Of course, we’re not interested in these kinds of permissible lies. The kind of lies that interest us occur when somebody lies in a context that isn’t socially or culturally permitted and when the motive for lying is personal gain. This also means that the lie has to be a conscious one, so the liar has to know that what she is saying doesn’t correctly describe reality. Remember, a lie can be a claim, but it can also be a matter of which emotions we display or don’t. If I tell you I won a tennis match that I actually lost, I’m lying to you. But if I display happiness in my actions and with my facial expression when I am really sad, I’m lying, too. A reaction to a difficult life event, such as bereavement, can make hr app higher on the agenda.
When somebody lies, there’s always a reward and/or a punishment involved, which is the reason for the lie. You lie to get a reward you wouldn’t get otherwise, or to avoid a punishment you’re about to be given. It could also be a combination of these: you lie to get a reward you’re not really entitled to, somebody’s appreciation for instance, but if the lie is discovered, you could be punished for it when the other person ends the relationship.