Friday, June 11, 2010

Book Review: The Liar in Your Life

Book Review: The Liar in Your Life - The Way To Truthful Relationships by Robert Feldman

This was a very interesting book, but ironically was rather deceptive in it's title. The part of the book devoted to the subtitle ("The Way To Truthful Relationships") was only a few pages long. Most of the book summed up the research and theory of deception, which was quite intriguing (and kind of depressing actually).

Deep down we know that everybody lies, yet this book shows just how widespread and pervasive the activity really is. For instance in the first 10 minutes of meeting someone the average person lies about three times. Feldman provides a good overview of research on lying and . . . and argues that it is a necessary aspect of social life. Feldman also says we all have a built-in "truth bias" and so we are incredibly susceptible to lieing and so most of the time liars very get away with their deception. We are also very good at self-deception (which he says is "an essential component of social living"). Animals deceive, too: the portia spider taps on other spiders' webs pretending to be a tasty fly, and then eats its hapless rival; and small frogs croak more deeply so as to seem bigger. Feldman reveals that people lie more when talking to attractive persons, to get better jobs, to feel better about ourselves, and to make others feel better. He also notes by discussing media falsifications and the awesome power of the internet for spreading lies (he includes bloggers of course).

I was struck especially at how my desire to be honest and truthful often contradicts my desire to be polite. This is where many of us lie on a daily (sometimes hourly) level. I was also struck by Feldman's research that shows that those who are gifted socially are almost always very strong in the area of deception. What was really depressing is that contrary to myths out there (ex/ the idea that if people can look us in the eye that they aren't lieing to us) that no one is very good at detecting lies. Lastly (and perhaps most distressingly), children grow up naturally learning to lie and then are taught it by the modelling of their parents (yes, you - sorry it is true). They are taught to be honest but then taught to be polite. To illustrate how this is problematic think of this situation:

For young children it is not easy to grasp the nuances of situations in which they are "supposed to lie." A preschooler might be defensibly confused when she is punished for lying about eating grandma's freshly baked cookies, then is punished again for being honest about unhappy she is to receive grandma's hand-knitted sweater. (Feldman, p. 69)

As a Christian, and as an idealist, this book was a huge wake up call and challenge that I could not ignore. As a parent I was struck by how I have confused my children with opposing messages on being honest. I still have to sort out how to balance grace with others and my desire to see honesty in my life but now I feel I have a much more "honest" understanding of deception and the difficulty even the average person has in weeding it from their life. A good read, I'd give it 4.1 ninja stars out of 5.


Tammy said...

Wow! Interesting. What in the world do people lie about 3 times in the first 10 mins you meet them?

Carla said...

Wow. I need this book! We have been dealing with the effects of 30 years of horrific family deception. Its a tough road to navigate. Would be nice to know what is going on in the mind of the deciever.