ignorance or dishonesty?

One of the three zillion things drilled into me as a kid was to let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’ In other words, say what you mean and mean what you say. In my spirited adolescence, I far from fathomed that such would be equally challenging for many in adulthood. Why is it so hard to speak accurately?

Maybe there’s an unspoken caveat worth wrestling with… is inaccuracy due to ignorance or dishonesty? While ignorance and dishonesty may manifest themselves identically, motive separates the two. 

To be ignorant — to misspeak, per se — means to unknowingly say something wrong. 

To be dishonest — to mislead — means to say something wrong intentionally.

There is no chip off anyone’s integrity for misspeaking. There is far more than a chip off for misleading.

One of the challenges with many of our leaders — and this goes back far more than the past seven months — is that their “yes” hasn’t always meant “yes” and their “no” not “no.” It’s then up to us to discern intention. Are they misspeaking or misleading?

Better yet, what determines our assessment? Is misspeaking or misleading based on…

… whether we like them or not? … because liking someone is an accurate gauge of discernment…

… whether we voted for them or not? … because if we voted for a person, surely we wouldn’t have supported anyone other than a beacon of integrity…

I’ll be honest — and I indeed mean no disrespect — I’m simply respectfully sharing a sincere opinion. I have struggled with the communication especially of the two most recent Presidents. I was not a fan of Pres. Trump’s often arrogant, over-use of Twitter nor of Pres. Biden’s often press-avoidant, over-reliance of the teleprompter. There have been far too many inaccuracies by both. 

Sometimes I feel like our leaders are telling us what they think we want to hear — or what they think sounds best — or they’re trying to talk us into something — like we can’t handle the truth. The messaging, for example, on the current turmoil in Afghanistan has been grossly inconsistent and wrong. And that’s the reporting of news sources all across the biased political spectrum.

So we ask once more: is inaccuracy due to ignorance or dishonesty?

The reality is we can’t always tell.

Vanessa Van Edwards, author of the best-selling book Captivate, suggests that while 82% of lies go undetected, 54% actually can be spotted if we know what to look for. Since in her extended research, she shares that “only six out of ten Americans claimed to tell the truth every day,” I’m thinking it might be wise to have a few more tools in our discernment.

According to Van Edwards, these ten signs help discern when people may be lying:

  1. A change in speech patterns
  2. The use of non-congruent gestures (when body movements don’t match a person’s actual words)
  3. Not saying enough
  4. Saying too much
  5. An unusual rise or fall in vocal tone
  6. Direction of their eyes
  7. Covering their mouth or eyes
  8. Excessive fidgeting
  9. Finger pointing (literal or figurative)
  10. Self-identifying as a “good liar”

Looks like there’s lots to discern. 

Letting our ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and our ‘No’ be ‘No’ would be easier.

Wiser, too.