Its amazing how quickly lying has become socially acceptable. Top managers who have brought their companies to the edge of the abyss are seriously saying that they had no idea while unabashedly pocketing their bonuses. Angry citizens are making up news and posting it on social media where it is shared so often that some people consider it to be the truth. And politicians have developed undreamt-of creativity when it comes to designing the truth. The incredible thing about it: In most cases, people don’t get enraged about it, they simply accept it. Maybe because they just don’t know what else to do.

Lies are as old as humanity itself

Lies have always existed and it’s a good thing. Just imagine what our social lives would be like if there were no lies. This naturally refers to those small, charming lies that we use to apply a cosmetic touch to harsh reality. You would probably be lonely pretty quickly if you always say what you think. We’ll let those pass as innocent lies.
It’s a different matter when lies are promoted on a massive scale in order to create unfair advantages for oneself or a group.

Lying as a tactical element

It is known that when culprits are caught they sometimes gladly lie to get out of their sticky situation. However, in this day and age lying is considered a veritable extension of the truth in many social, economic and political environments – and this has a different quality. Where did this even start? It used to be said that the most lying happens before an election, during a war and after a hunt. This might explain a lot. These days, it’s not just politicians who are in permanent election campaign mode.

Thanks to social media, companies also feel like they are facing unforgivingly well-informed consumers who they constantly have to win over and hold on to. If they don’t succeed in doing this, the consumer quickly chooses a different provider. Of course it is difficult to rely on truth alone to achieve this objective. Now if some of the truth is simply omitted, that isn’t lying… Or is it?

Lying is a survival strategy in an increasingly harsh environment

These days social pressure has reached a new level. Just take the many totally normal people who believe they have to present their life on social media, as an example. The bar is set high here by the profiles of stars and celebrities.

The truth quickly falls by the wayside here: Photos are edited and beautified using photoshop. And rather boring weekends are given a massive upgrade using made-up details.The contest between companies has reached new dimensions on the economic level.

Globalization has created drastic comparability and replaceability. The pressure is passed down from top management. It’s no wonder that some seek their luck by using trickery. On all levels of hierarchy. One quickly learns that lying pays off and that they can get you to the top. Furthermore, Neil Garrett and his colleagues at the University College London did an experiment that proves people can get used to lying. At first, a person might feel bad about little lies, but the emotional reaction changes as the frequency of lying increases. One no longer feels bad about the lie and takes bigger risks as time passes. This is how many constructs of lies are created.

It is easier to believe lies

Are lies more believable and likable than the truth? Do people want to be lied to and do they look for the lie that they like best? A survey conducted by the German magazine ‘Hörzu’ in 2013 is quite fitting here. In the survey, 88% of those surveyed said that politicians lie. 67% are even convinced that it is sometimes necessary for politicians to lie. They show their understanding. So does that mean everything is ok?

Not really.

Lies have short legs

Unfortunately, at some point most lies leak out. Ultimately, it turns out that someone else is smarter. At some point someone spills the beans even though they promised to keep their mouth shut. Or the liar themselves blabs by mistake because they’ve lost their own bearings in their construct of lies. In the end, the price one ends up paying for the lies is far greater than the advantage initially gained from them.

How about using honesty as a counter-strategy?

For every trend there is a counter-trend that develops. The counter-trend to self-optimization and distortion of the truth is authenticity and honesty. It almost works better than lying. For instance, Mercedes-Benz not only withstood its elk test fiasco (when the A-class tipped over while doing the evasive maneuver test) with a mercilessly honest campaign, but also became more likable. This isn’t just the right strategy for VW. It’s the right strategy for many politicians, the media, and for each of us.

Birte Karalus