At recent meeting of a mixed bag of 30 people or so the woman in charge thought we should all introduce ourselves as a way of breaking the ice and getting the meeting started. One at a time the attendees stood recited their names and gave a brief bio. The morning was full of, “Hello I’m Joe Blow and I am the regional director of such and such,” until we got to this one woman who went on and on about some insignificant little job that she had had with IBM. She was clearly proud of this dumb little job and to hear her exaggerate the importance, in pain-staking detail, of every aspect of this really unimportant job you would have thought that she ran the whole damn company. I thought yuck and then I felt sorry for this insecure little nothing that had to lie and embellish her bio just to boost her own ego in a failed and sorry attempt to impress a bunch of strangers.
She got me thinking about lying. Little lies like she just told accomplish exactly the opposite of what she was trying to do. We think less of her even though she tried so hard to impress us. It’s like when someone asks, “How much do you weigh?” and you answer, “170, not more than 175,” or when your doctor asks, “How many drinks do you have a day?” and you answer, “Only two glasses of red wine a day just like they recommend.” These little lies or fibs don’t cut it. Everybody knows you’re lying and they think less of you for doing so. If you’d have answered 195 pushing 200 and four to eight glasses depending on the evening you’d have made a far better impression. But big lies have the opposite effect if the person you’re telling them to thinks you’re lying and if you make them outlandish and funny. Knowing this I stood up and said:
Hello I’m Bob Rockwell and I...
I graduated from Harvard early so I could participate in the 1964 Olympics
I won three gold medals at the XVIII Olympiad in Tokyo
I am a decorated Viet Nam war hero
I starred in seven porno movies
I invented Teflon
I slept with Bo Derek when she was just a 9 1/2
I swam the English Channel with a butterfly stroke
I turned down the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes prize
I won the America’s Cup with a boat of my own design
I beat Minnesota Fats at a game of 9-ball
I am a member of the Deming Writing Group
And I am also a storyteller who is known to embellish the facts a little for a good story.
I sat down to utter silence then laughter and finally applause. See it worked, my big lies told them that I was a creative and witty guy, a guy with enough self esteem to pull this off without having said a meaningful word about myself. They thought more of me than if I would have told them the truth and a lot more of me than they did of the woman who told all of those little lies. Think about this.