Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, & Nobody

In a recent magazine article, actor Mathew McConaughey, was being interviewed. The reporter asked him why he thought the last 15 years in film had been good to him. “Always be a gentleman and don’t lie.” As I considered the simplicity of that statement, I was reminded of my early years of marriage.

When I first met my wife 30 years ago, I lied about something really insignificant. She looked at me like the RCA Dog. “Really?” Pausing for effect, she observed, “You’re not telling me the truth are you?” Looking at my shoes, I replied, “No” Incredulous she said, “Why did you lie?” Thinking quickly on my feet, I replied, “I’m a guy?” Quoting Shakespeare, she said, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, once we practice to deceive.”

Two years ago, I stumbled across a complimentary copy of a book written by the CEO of a major Hotel chain. In it was a little parable was written by some guy named ANONYMOUS. It’s a bit like an Abbot and Costello routine.

The Parable of Responsibility

Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody were members of a group. There was an important job to do and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody would have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody would do it, but Nobody realized that Anybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody, blamed Somebody, when Nobody did, what Anybody could have done.

Why do we shirk responsibility? FEAR. Fear of loss or desire for gain. That can lead to not telling the truth. Lying. Someone I respect once told me there was 13 ways to lie. I thought to myself, really? 13? I racked my brain. I made a list. Then I went online to research. I could only come up with ten without duplication.

Here is my modified list in reverse order, like a Letterman List:

To minimize is to make the infraction seem smaller than it really is. To spot this one, listen for words like: “Just” and “Only” when doubting someone’s word. Its proof that the other person is not telling the truth. They are softening the blow. It’s a white lie.

Why do we engage in blame? Many small reasons but simply one big one, FEAR. It’s a kind of shortcut to getting out of jail. “Who did this?” “NOT ME! It was him!” (or the dog!) For a lot us it started when we were kids. When I was five, I told the truth and got a spanking. The next time, I lied and got out of it. That day I became a liar. If at first you don’t succeed, set the blame quick.

Changing the subject is a great way to shift the focus onto something or someone else. “What about you! Just last week you…” Now we are combing MINIMIZING with DEFLECTION. Brilliant. People who do this are quick on their feet and smooth as silk.

“I can’t remember!” The Alzheimer strategy. This is especially useful as we get older. Seinfeld did a whole episode about this. (Uncle Leo was stealing books at the bookstore.) It’s the sin of Omission.

This is a flat out lie. Bald face lie. Look the other person in the eye and simply deny the accusation. This one takes real courage and schutzpah. Not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.

This is the “Say nothing…ever!” strategy. When you do this, it messes people up. Poker players are really good at this. I don’t play poker so this one is tough for me. I look at my shoes a lot when confronted. Busted. I have a “cribbage” face.

In order to pull this one off, you have to be a little pathological. Lying must be a way of life. “Denial isn’t a river in Egypt and you are not Cleopatra!” When taking this position, change is not an option. A lot of felons live this one to their grave.

This one involves metrics, gathering proof that your position is the right one. Tons of data. Rational-lies. There is work involved here. Defending your position may mean hiring an assistant or even an attorney. This one can get expensive.

This one admits a portion of the truth. In Public Relations this is called SPIN. It worked for President William Jefferson Clinton. “I did not have sex with that woman!” (Define sex.)

The oxymoron is another form of minimizing, like a euphemism. We have all heard Jumbo Shrimp and Backup Forward. Here is my favorite list of oxymorons, A-Z:

Awfully nice, Big Baby holding a Black Goldfish, Cheap Gas, Definite Maybe, Educated Guess, Firm Estimate, Genuine Imitation, Half Empty, Insane Logic, Junk Bonds, Kosher Ham, Lame Skills, Mild Cigar, Natural Makeup, Objective Rating, Perfect Idiot, Qualified Success, Random Logic, Sad Clown, Tame Beast, Unbiased Opinion, Vanilla Fudge, War Games,Xenophobic Foreign Secretary, Young Sixty-Year Old and Zero Deficit.

If you are a lifelong liar, and everyone knows it, when you do finally tell the truth, no one will believe you! Brilliant. When all else fails, you can tell them “The Parable of Responsibility” They will laugh and forget why they confronted you in the first place. JUST ask my wife. Finally, here is #11. Be honest. If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said. Now that’s worth writing down.

I think I will go see the movie “The Lincoln Lawyer” with Honest Mathew. I just know he will be a gentleman.

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