People lie all the time. There are lies that are pathological and lies that are told by people who feel cornered, but these only make up a small amount of the lies people tell.
Most lies are not even told on purpose.
A Time article from 2017 highlights how much we lie when detailing condom use amongst men and women:
Consider that heterosexual women report, on average, that they have sex 55 times per year and use a condom 16% of the time. That comes out to 1.1 billion condoms. When heterosexual men are asked the same questions about sexual frequency and condom use, however, the total comes out to 1.6 billion condoms. Someone’s clearly not telling the truth—and as it turns out, no one is. Only 600 million condoms are sold in the U.S. per year.
The fact is that people lie all the time. The challenge is that it often happens without us knowing.
I’ve had a couple run-ins with this in my professional IT career.
The first was when I was helping a team resolve an issue with their database. The problem was that users were often locking each other out as they updated customer information. It seems the customer records were often too close to each other and locking one to edit it would lock the ones nearby.
There was a solution, but it would only work if the data looked a certain way. We could use a special ordering index that would scramble the records reducing the odds that two records that needed editing would be near each other.
I asked the group key questions to make sure the data was a good fit; if not it could not only slow the database down, it could backfire. I was assured the data was as it should be.
It turns out people lie all the time.
Lying on the Web
Another time I was working with a group who was having an issue with their web server. Oddly, for my own business I had a similar issue with my web server.
In my case the company who made the web server software had released an update that shut down certain features requiring some settings changes before it would work again. Since this group used the same software, I asked key questions to see if it was the same issue.
They told me it was something else and had about a dozen people spend the rest of the day working to resolve. Finally, they discovered the issue.
It turns out people lie all the time.
Why People Lie
In all these cases, it’s not that people are purposefully lying. In fact, often they are trying to be as truthful as they can.
The problem isn’t with their desire to be truthful; the problem is with their confidence.
Everyone believes things all the time that aren’t accurate. The condom users probably believe they use that many condoms. Sure, some may be outright lying, but the majority are simply confident enough in their knowledge that they don’t double check.
The same holds true for the people with the data issue and the people with the broken web server. They have no intention of lying; it wouldn’t help their cause. They simply don’t want to spend time verifying what they believe to be true. People lie all the time, not because they’re liars, but because they don’t care enough to verify the truth.
Their confidence in their misunderstanding is their downfall.
The Pitfalls of Confidence and the Fix
The problem with misplaced confidence is how it can impact your future.
A misunderstanding about how important a condom is can have a huge, life-altering impact. A misunderstanding about data can bring a system to its knees and cost thousands in man hours. Likewise a misunderstanding about a web server can also cost a company a lot of money in productivity and lost sales.
In all of these cases, a simple 1-5 minute verification could save hours upon hours of grief. Confidence is powerful, but confidence is not a replacement for accuracy. If your confidence undermines your desire to be truthful, it can have a huge impact on your life and the lives of those around you.
The simple fact is there is an easy fix: when you aren’t sure of an answer, verify it. When you provide an opinion, state that. It’s a quick fix that pays huge dividends.
Make sure what you’re saying is true and accurate, then your confidence will not only be beneficial, it will be earned.