Deceiving Without Lying

Spin“It’s true I deceived you but I wasn’t lying.”

The statement, spoken brazenly by a work colleague, momentarily floored me. I thought deception and lying were the same thing. A little bit of research suggests there may be a difference.

In ‘Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics’, the author claims there are three different kinds of deception: lying, spinning, and concealment.

Lying is when a person makes a statement he knows to be false in order to deceive the target audience. “Lying can involve making up facts that one knows to be false or denying facts that one knows to be true.”  In addition, a person is lying when he uses true facts to make the case that something is true which he knows is not true.

On the other hand, spinning is when a person emphasizes certain facts to make a point, while, at the same time, avoiding inconvenient facts that detract from the point. “Spinning is all about interpreting the known facts in a way that allows the spinner to tell a favorable story.”

Finally, concealment happens when a person doesn’t reveal information that would weaken the point he is trying to make. That person is hiding the truth.

As a society, we view each of these deceptions differently.  The basic tenets of many cultures include the commandment “Thou shalt not lie.” On the other hand, concealment is discouraged but viewed as less troubling than lying; it is designated as the sin of omission.  Of the three types of deception, only spinning seems to be permitted by society.  According to popular wisdom, traditional marketers and politicians base their careers on spinning.

Follow me on twitter (@jbecher) – no lying, no spinning, and no concealment.

4 Responses to Deceiving Without Lying

  1. A.D. Everard says:

    Frankly, I don’t trust any of ’em. You know now not to trust that co-worker. Cheers! 🙂

  2. I believe that marketers should “tell the whole truth in the best possible way”. If there is some fact that you are not acknowledging which would lead customers to feel deceived were they to find it out, then you’re doing it wrong.

    Most marketers feel uncomfortable acknowledging that some part of their product is less than perfect. This may have worked in the past (“cigarettes for your health!”) but it is counter-productive in today’s era of unprecedented transparency.

    Marketers should assume that “the truth will out” and that their job is to give the best presentation of all the facts. The alternative is to lose all credibility (sadly, this is indeed happening, as in the often-heard phrases “marketing fluff” or “that’s just marketing”) – and hand a potent weapon to competitors.

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