Tag: truth-telling

5 Ways to Cultivate Truth

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

“The truth may be stretched thin, but it never breaks, and it always surfaces above lies, as oil floats on water.” – Cervantes, Don Quixote


It isn’t all that uncommon to find yourself bending the truth. People do it all the time. Sometimes it’s to spare someone else from feeling uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s to give ourselves an escape from consequences we know we’ll encounter if we tell the truth. But guess what? The truth will eventually come out, no matter how hard we try to avoid it.

There’s something universally appealing in this, although few would admit it. We don’t want to be regarded as liars – even though we sometimes fall into that category. The idea that our little obfuscations or outright tall tales would come back to haunt us isn’t particularly attractive. The fact that we work so hard to skirt the truth – knowing full well that it’s wrong, but doing it anyway – means we’ve got some self-improvement we need to tend to.

Think of the biggest lies in history and how they eventually were unmasked. The world is flat was debunked. Men are superior was called into question. “I’ll call you” is universally discredited. Big lie or little, as Shakespeare’s quote in “The Merchant of Venice” so aptly reveals – “the truth will out.”

If you accept that truth has more value than lies and acknowledge that it’s going to come out anyway, how do you begin to cultivate the habit of telling the truth to begin with? Is this something you can teach yourself to do – after years of doing just the opposite?

You can and here’s how.

Pause and think.

Before you respond to a question, embark on telling a story, fill out an employment application or apply for a loan, pause and think what you’re about to reveal. The first thought that pops into your head may be a lie – or it could be the truth, which you quickly push aside. You’ll know whether it’s truth or lie.

Being able to identify what the thought is qualifies you to make the decision what to do next. You need the time to figure out what you’re going to say or do.

Prepare truthful answers.

Think of answers that are truths you’re willing to say ahead of time so you’re not stumped when you need to say something. Let’s say you’re going to a job interview and you want to appear your best. You know you’ll be asked about your strengths and your accomplishments. Instead of saying you saved your previous employer $100,000 by uncovering duplicate projects – when you really only observed someone else doing that – if it’s true you were part of a team that streamlined corporate projects to maximize efficiency, say that instead. If you’re not particularly innovative, talk up how you’re a hard worker that supports team efforts. If you take the time to realize your strengths, you’ll be able to come up with talking points that are true, not false.

If you’re uncomfortable, ask for a break.

Maybe the truth you tell now would cause harm, make someone unhappy, or result in your getting fired. Instead of instantly incriminating yourself, ask for a break – literally. You need some time to frame the truth so that it’s less harmful, or to summon your resources if the blowback will be serious. It’s better to say nothing than to blow it completely by telling a lie that will come back to roost.

Work on your values.

Learning to tell the truth instead of spouting lies every time you open your mouth takes patience, time and practice. Begin by addressing your core values, identifying them and striving to live in accordance with them. If you value friendship, act like a true friend. If you prize family above all else, put your family ahead of everything else you do. Be the person you most admire. Adopt the traits of people you respect.

Ask for help.

No doubt there are people in your life who are familiar with your tendency to embroider the truth. Ask for their help in supporting your truth-telling quest. Have your network of close friends and loved ones call you out when they recognize you’re telling a lie. This might smart a bit, but you need this type of supportive assistance to change your behavior.

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Related posts:
How to Start Telling the Truth Instead of Lies
How to Live What You Believe
10 Ways Lies Hurt You
Should You Ever Tell the Whole Truth to Your Kids?

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Should You Ever Tell the Whole Truth to Your Kids?

Photo by London Scout/Unsplash

Photo by London Scout/Unsplash

Parents unquestionably have a big responsibility raising children, but they often find themselves unsure how much of the truth to tell their kids.

I talked with Dr. Anita Gadhia-Smith, a Washington, D.C. psychiatrist who counsels individuals, couples and families to get her thoughts on the topic.

Complex Issue

As Dr. Gadhia-Smith sees it, the issue is complex and there is no one-size-fits-all manual for raising kids. “First-time parents will go through a trial an error process, and each child within a family may be very different,” she says. “In general, children do have very different levels of comprehension, depending on individual personality development and age.”

When I asked if there’s an age-appropriate version of the truth, Dr. Gadhia-Smith says that children under five cannot comprehend the complexity of life and relational issues that an older child can. “The older the child, the greater the need for fully honest disclosure and guidance that will help the child integrate and set their own value system.”

Never Lie, but Don’t Tell All

Whether it’s ever OK for parents to lie to their kids, it really comes down to using good judgment.

“In general, it is not advisable to lie,” Dr. Gadhia-Smith says. “However, it is not always advisable to tell all either. Parents need to use their own inner guidance about what feels right to them. Some children are more mature than others, but you also don’t want to parentify a child and use them as your support system.”

Outside Support Systems

When one parent unloads all his or her emotional anguish on the kids, perhaps over a divorce, separation or break-up, it could signal trouble? This could very well be too much of an emotional burden for the children. Dr. Gadhia-Smith offers clear advice for parents to avoid such an inappropriate emotional dump on their kids.

If you’re going through a separation or divorce, Dr. Gadhia-Smith says it is best for everyone involved if each person has their own support system outside of the family.

“Psychotherapy can be very helpful for children who are struggling with divided loyalties and feeling caught in the middle between divorcing parents,” she says. “Parents need to be mindful not to use their children as their best friend or therapist. It may be tempting, as they are readily available, but the impact on the child could be detrimental.”

Truth-telling About Divorce

What truth should parents tell their kids about the decision to divorce? Is saying, “Daddy is going to be travelling for a while” not a good approach? What is better? Does it depend on the age of the child how much of the truth the parent(s) tell?

Dr. Gadhia-Smith recommends the direct approach in this case. “It is best to be honest and straightforward about it. As difficult as this may be, the sooner the child learns of reality, the better.”

But don’t just blurt out the facts to get it over with. Use caution and a little finesse to do this right. “It is important to take the time necessary to help the child understand what divorce means, and that there will still be a family (if at all possible),” she says. “The child needs to understand that he or she is not being divorced; it is the parents who have made this decision in the best interest of everyone.

“It is also important to speak in a positive manner about the person you are divorcing. Remember at the child is half of each of you, and needs to love you both. Modeling compassion, empathy, courtesy, generosity, and decency during the process of divorce is invaluable to children’s’ development.”

Modeling Telling the Truth

As parents, you also play a vital role in showing your children what telling the truth looks like. This is another parenting area parents often struggle with. Here’s Dr. Gadhia-Smith’s practical advice.

“Modeling truth-telling is critical, because children learn from what they see you do more than from what you tell them to do. Children need to develop skills in honest communication, confronting difficult life situations, and setting appropriate values.”

Confront Truth with Love

If your child tells lies repeatedly and you want to help him or her to change the behavior, what should you do? This might be especially difficult if you’ve been caught in lies and the kids know it.

“If a child repeatedly lies, and parents want to change their behavior, a good approach is to confront the truth with love, and then model truth-telling and talking about reality,” Dr. Gadhia-Smith says. “If a child is lying, they may be uncomfortable about some aspect of their reality, and it can be very helpful to look underneath the behavior and examine what is driving it.”

Truth in the News

News today is often brutal, graphic and distorted. Parents often need help about telling the truth to their kids about they see and hear in the media.

Dr. Gadhia-Smith says that parents shouldn’t shield their kids from the news, in general, but they shouldn’t go too far in the other direction either. She states that overprotecting children is usually not in the best interest of the child.

“Life is difficult, confusing, and contains many contradictions,” she says. “And life is not always fair. The news should not be over idealized or demonized. It is helpful for children to understand the way the world is. To create a fantasy about the world is not helpful, but at the same, overexposure to anything is not balanced.”

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