“Everybody lies,” he said and laughed.

Cynical, I thought. Too much time working in the Social Security Fraud department.

Now I don’t, disagree.

They do — lie.

We do. I do. We lie first to ourselves. We don’t and even can’t tell ourselves the whole truth about ourselves.

The truth about myself?

Recently, my wife reminded me that I tend to be dominant. It’s true. So does she, thus we make a great match —  two really strong people not easily told what to do. It works for us. We don’t — and can’t — run over each other very much. And so we allow for a fair degree of autonomy and independence in the relationship and we talk a lot, process a lot, keep everything current — criticism and praise. That is how we can tell we love — we’re honest.

But when other people tell me the truth about myself, sometime I deny it. Why? I’m not sure they love me, know me, care for me, and I fear motivated feedback, manipulative feedback, especially the negative stuff, but even sometime the positive. What are they trying to get from me with their frothy compliments?  Such guardedness, such suspicion,  closes me up to others,  but sometimes others —  even strangers and casual friends —  know me better than I know myself.

Simine Vazire, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University, has discovered that we are better at assessing our “own internal, or neurotic traits, such as anxiety, while friends are better barometers of intellect-related traits, such as intelligence and creativity.”

Cornell University social psychologist David Dunning, PhD has found that, “People overestimate themselves.” The least competent performers inflate their abilities the most,” seemingly based on ignorance of their own abilities.

This seems to be in part a cultural phenomena. Americans tend to overrate themselves; East Asians tend to underrate themselves. Sounds about right. In American, everybody gets a star in school.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for American overconfidence lies in our tendency to avoid giving each other feedback. Many of us are really quite closed when it comes to giving and receiving feedback. We tend to hide our assessments of other and ourselves — particularly negative assessments  — to gain a surface and veneered aura of public peace and acceptance.

We seem too much afraid of each other, and not skilled at delicate, nuance conversations that can promote deep bonds. We hold back, then gush, then attack, then hide; we are passive and aggressive, and we spoil things.

I can tell this is happening because people are always telling my something about someone else that they won’t tell that person. Triangulation seems rampant in our society. It is because we are chicken! And because we simply won’t face and do what works. Honesty works. Dishonesty — it doesn’t.

My bother told me a while back he thought I was a bit of an elitist about food and technology and material stuff. It stung, I considered it; then I told him. “You’re right, I am.  Sorry I offended you with that. I’ll work on it.” I am, working on it. We are closer now.

Can we do this with each other?

We can.

I’ve finding more and more that it is best to “go there,” and let other go there too, to bring up the issues that lie between us, to invite conflict, to gently talk about difference, early, before they inflate. It is best to be honest. It is best to be open. It is best to realize that I need others to properly assess myself. If I include them, then I can can get better at important stuff — at truth, at love.

Lies don’t work. Ignorance doesn’t work.

What works is gentle, safe, loving, ongoing dialogues about what is true — that works.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s