June 4, 2015 in Dag

Sorry, I can’t look you in the eye

One of the things I enjoy most about being a writer is the sheer joy of making things up.

I love to close my eyes and imagine the world in ways that it’s never actually been. I love to invent and create and come up with all kinds of things that nobody’s ever thought of before. I like to think that reality is no barrier, and that I’m free to redefine it in whichever way I choose.

You would think that would make me a tricky kind of character. You would expect that I’d be the sort of person who could never be trusted. That any words that emerged from my mouth would have to be taken with a big grain of salt. After all, if he’s making stuff up for his books, who knows what other stuff he’s also making up.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure I have an imagination that regularly runs riot, but only in the services of a good story. When it comes to engaging in real-life situations, I’m actually quite ridiculously trustworthy, and there’s a very good reason why.

I’m an absolutely appalling liar, especially when it comes to the spoken word.

When I’m writing, my imagination runs free, and I can depart as far from reality as I choose. But if anybody asks my a question about anything, there’s nothing I can do except respond absolutely truthfully. If I should try to do anything else, the following is likely to happen:

1. I’m possibly going to blush
2. I’ll burst out laughing, or at the least break out in a big nervous smile
3. Find anywhere else to look at except the person I’m talking to.

So you see the problem. While I can dream up the most fantastic ideas and have no problems putting them into written form, I’m practically incapable of telling any kind of untruth. Has it been a strain on my life? You betcha. I can’t describe the number of times I’ve wanted to spin out a story to save my face or otherwise rectify an unpleasant solution of my own creation. But I’ve never been able to.

Do you believe me? Have I convinced you of my utter honesty, or do you think it’s just one more product of my overactive imagination? Well I guess there’s just one way to find out. Ask me directly. And if, when I answer you, I’m struggling to look you in the eye, you’ll know for sure I’m not telling the truth.

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Jim Murdoch June 6, 2015 at 7:32 am

There was an instance once at work where something was under dispute and to resolve the matter the group leader shouted over to me to say what had happened, “because you never lie”. On one level that quite pleased me. But, of course, lying comes in many flavours. Ask me a direct question and you’ll get the truth but, like most people, I’m canny with what I share with people. It’s like my persona online. There are lots of things I never talk about or if I do I’m careful about what I say. I have a daughter—that’s no big secret—but I’ve never mentioned her name and I’ve never posted a photo of her. It’s finding a balance between honesty and privacy. Dr. Albert Mehrabian conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc). I think this is an important thing to consider in our dealings with people online; we’re only getting a fraction of the picture and extrapolating the rest. In a comment on that article someone wrote, “I used to teach at Gallaudet University where the students are deaf or hard of hearing. It’s difficult to ‘lie’ to a deaf person because they’re so attuned to peoples’ body language.” I don’t think of the person I am online as the real me. He’s an idealised version. I can be him for short periods of time. I’d love to be him all the time but it’s too much of a strain. It’s why we should never meet our heroes because no one could ever live up to the impression we carry around in our head.

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Jonathan Gould June 7, 2015 at 1:29 am

Hi Jim. Know what you mean re the privacy stuff. I suspect I’m quite good at that too.

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