The Idea:  Research shows in one of every two discussions we fail to accurately detect if someone is lying or telling the truth. And additional studies led by researchers Aldret Vrij and Brill DePaulo found that over three quarters of lies go undetected. Most of us are failing to detect when others are trying to pull a fast one.  Deceptive comments, overstatements, misrepresentations and exaggerations confront us each and every day. 

Many leaders struggle with exaggerating their relationships, their successes, their kid’s accomplishments and minimize their shortcomings.  There is no question we live in a culture where exaggeration seems to be accepted. It seems to be part of the game.

Makes me wonder, is exaggeration actually lying in disguise?

Psychologist Robert Feldman cites protecting self-esteem or maintaining social contacts as the reason people exaggerate (or in his words “lie”). However you cut it, exaggeration is playing with the truth.  It’s birthed out of insecurity, is deceptive and it damages the core of all relationships.

The research once again shows that most people are not looking for bigger than life leaders, high charisma and bravado. The majority of us are turned off by people who exaggerate claims because after a while we see through it. We don’t trust these behaviors because history has shown that these traits, which often elevate leaders to power, are the same traits which are their undoing.

When leaders exaggerate, their brand and their word are at risk. The truth always squirts out.

Exaggeration can hinder others’ ability to trust.

  • Exaggeration costs them the trust of their customers; it kills credibility and creates doubt.
  • Exaggeration costs them the trust of their fellow teammates because others realize if you exaggerate with customers or your boss, you are more than likely exaggerating with them.

In his recent book The Road to Character, author David Brooks says, “Occasionally, even today, you come across certain people who seem to possess an impressive inner cohesion. They are not leading fragmented, scattershot lives…… Their minds are consistent and their hearts are dependable.” They are trustworthy.

The unfortunate truth about deception is that it doesn’t require malicious intent.  It simply happens.  However, those that can repress a momentary urge to overstate understand the value of trust.

Are you tempted to exaggerate, or put a pretty smile on a problem instead of shooting straight?

Don’t be deceived, shoot straight.