A Question of Honesty



How honest should we be?  Various sources claim the average person tells multiple lies every day.  I came across the following passage after a quick Internet search:  “Men tell twice as many lies as women, it emerged yesterday.  Researchers found they tell six fibs a day on average to their partner, boss and work colleagues, but women come out with just three.  The study of 2,000 Britons also revealed that the most common lie told by both sexes was:  ‘Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine.’”

Read more:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1213171/Men-lie-times-day-twice-women-study-finds.html#ixzz1amW7Aa58http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1213171/Men-lie-times-day-twice-women-study-finds.html#ixzz1agj3Jkoz

I don’t know how fair it is to generalize from a 2009 study of 2,000 Britons except to say that I have no reason to doubt the results.  I don’t think many of us analyze everything we say to insure that it is wholly true; and I suspect that if we did, we might be surprised by the number of “fibs” we tell. 

I come across a work-related situation lately that caused me to consider these questions.  The National League of Cities (NLC) offers a prescription drug discount program to its members that claims, among other things, “Cities of all sizes have seen big savings – from nearly $500,000 for Clarksburg, W.Va., to more than $325,000 for Detroit.”  The whole truth is that the reported savings to individual pharmacy users are what they would have saved if they had purchased the drugs at “usual and customary” prices that less than ten percent of the population actually pays.  There is no way to measure actual savings because the pharmacies have no way of knowing whether the people using the cards would have used an equally accessible card offering the same discount.  My initial reaction to this information was anger that the NLC appeared to be misleading its members about the benefits of the prescription drug program.  I learned after some investigation, however, that the program apparently does reduce the number of people who pay “usual and customary” pharmacy costs and that these people are probably those who can least afford to pay the full price.  The promotion may not give the whole story, but the bottom line is that the program is helping people.

I think citizens often get angry at government for the same reason I was upset with the NLC.  We run programs or confront issues that are complex and difficult to explain; so we try to simplify what we say to make it understandable to as many people as possible.  We generally don’t have the resources to accurately convey every nuance of an important issue.  We are not alone.  Newspapers and the media in general confront the same problem.  The inability to convey the whole story coupled with the natural desire to put the best face on a problem leads to distrust and skepticism.

The cure for my suspicion and anger was a patient employee of the NLC who took the time to explain his program and answer my questions without being defensive or showing resentment that I was taking up his valuable time.  Our conversation was a good reminder to me of the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity to build trust one person at a time.  Women are apparently better at this than men; so I am resolved to improve my performance in the future. The unfortunate side effect of this resolve may be that anyone who asks how I’m doing from now on may hear more than they really want to know.