Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Why can't I lie?

Oh, don't worry - I don't presume myself to be some noble saint who cannot utter a fib. I'm not going through some voodoo honesty spell.
I do lie, but its useless lying. It's to embellish stories, or to make things sound better. Occasionally I lie to get my own way, or to make myself seem less wrong. I'm pretty sure I keep those lies to errors that affect only me* and to protect my pride. I'm usually afraid of being wrong.

But there is a kind of lying that I haven't mastered and I am shitty with myself for it. I think it's the most useful - nay, benevolent & generous - kind of lying there is. Why I, with my gloriously paltry drama background, cannot master this, a gift of friendship and affection, is beyond me.

Sometimes, I can't lie to be nice.

Don't get me wrong - I don't think I'm heartless - I can easily, willingly, happily, without any effort at all, find positive or complimentary things to say about gifts, situations, and such, or ask relevant questions about the topic at hand to show I'm listening and I care. None of that is lying. I laugh, smile, nod etc to politely play may part in a conversation. That's 99.5% of the time. Of course, I always say thank you, ask how people are - I don't think I'm dysfunctional or challenged in regular everyday interactions.

But there are a few times when I find it really hard to simply look pleased when I'm not. There's a part of my brain that says "That just isn't true. You don't like this gift. It's well made, and alright quality, and it's [insert good quality here] - say those things, remember the thought counts - but don't say you love it or like it because, right now, that's a lie and lying is wrong."
Now, I think I might be getting better at this. (Does this mean I'm regularly getting not-very-good gifts? Hmm...) When I get buttons made of stone, quirky dust-catchers, or something that actually suits the buyer more than the receiver, I can usually make a generic positive sound that says "You thought of me/my birthday when you were far away! I love that! How lovely!" (which I truly mean) while a little teeny part of my brain says "This made you think of me?"

Similarly, sometimes I fail to convincingly keep eye contact, raise eyebrows or nod when people tell stories. This happens when I'm thinking "This is not a nice/interesting/funny story", "This isn't something I want or am supposed to hear" or "This sounds untrue."
I tend to do this mostly in the company of people I've spent too much time with, or people I don't respect (which I suppose means I'm not worried if they're put out for a while).
I'm sure I've seen people do this, or something like it, to me. My first thought is "I'm talking about myself too much again." (No! Really? Gee, Blogger, that's uncharacteristic!) But really, it could be anything - they're thinking of something else, something they've forgotten, who knows. I suppose, the people I do this to might assume the same thing, but I could make it so they needn't have to imagine excuses.

But this is all I'd need to do:
  • say "Wow! I love it! Thank you so much!"
  • nod or raise my eyebrows and smile
  • occasionally say 'Huh!"
Pretty simple, yes?**

And I would be a much nicer, although slightly less honest, person.

Stay tuned for my next post: "Why am I neurotic? One woman's suspicion that she's having normal social interactions"

* And possibly my husband. For instance, "I meant to do that this morning!" (no, completely forgot, but I don't care to be in trouble for that thanks) or I'll make up a reason that didn't exist at the time. I think it's because I think he's really smart, and I don't want him to think I've done something silly, which is stupid because people should be allowed to forget and make mistakes sometimes. I'm usually very defensive if he is patronising or jokey about me being 'dumb'. He's not being mean, just not-very-funny at a not-very-good time i.e. when I'm not in the goddam crapping mood.

** God willing, matching the response with an appropriate situation. Wouldn't be opening a present and saying "Huh!" too often... oh, God, I hope I haven't....

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