Blake Snow

writer-for-hire, content guy, bestselling author

As seen on CNN, NBC, ABC, Fox, Wired, Yahoo!, BusinessWeek, Wall Street Journal
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Tagged truth

When is it okay to lie?

Honesty is the best policy. Except in two very specific situations.

  1. To protect yourself or someone else from danger. For example, we tell our kids to lie if someone at the door asks if their parents are home when we aren’t. Similarly, if someone is trying to manipulate, trick, or hurt you, they don’t deserve the truth, as they will try to use it against you. In these situations, you should always lie and encourage the loved ones in your life to do the same.
  2. To protect the feelings of others. If you have someone’s best interest at heart and are not lying to them for selfish reasons, research shows it’s beneficial to lie when someone’s feelings are involved. The classic example is if your spouse asks if they look good before leaving the door, especially when there’s no time to change. Rather than exaggerate, however, a comical half-truth can work much better to boost the confidence of loved ones and hopefully illicit a calming laugh. For example, “You looked worse on your wedding day,” spoken with a playful smile.

When in doubt or when trying to avoid the natural consequences of your bad behavior, honesty really is the best policy. But in these tricky situations, careful lying is the way to go.

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Money, brands, and nations: Why humans believe in intersubjectivity

When it comes to believing a story, most people think there are only two kinds of truth: objective realities (such as a physical head wound) and subjective realities (such as an untraceable but observable mental illness).

But there is actually a third kind of truth: intersubjective reality, which depends on communication among many humans, rather than the observations, beliefs, or feelings of a few individuals.

Take currency, for example. Money only has value because we say it does. Is $100 bill really worth $100? Only because a lot of respected people (i.e. governments) say it is.

Similarly, the stock market is another great example of intersubjectivity, since a stock is only worth as much as a lot of people believe it is.

Same goes for alma maters, sports teams, companies, even nations. While we can physically view these institutions, they only have value because a lot of people believe in them. From an objective or pure subjective point of view, they do not exist.

Interestingly, intersubjective realities are just as influential (if not more so) than objective and subjective realities.

I’m not saying they shouldn’t be. But they are a fascinating and powerful reminder of just how social we are as a species. It’s another phenomenon that makes us uniquely human.