Fifty Shades of Professional Lies

Laurel-and-Hardy shh

Surfing TV news early this morning I spotted a professional liar and it made me realise, at times, I’m one too. Are you?

One of the truths about lying is that it often lands positive results for liars. As we all lie, from time to time, our motivation to manipulate the truth can only be because we get something out of it.

In Psychology Today, social psychologist Leonard Saxe says from the time we can speak, we’re socialised to believe that it’s always better to tell the truth. In reality, society often encourages and even rewards deception.

What’s more, some careers like advertising, journalism, law, marketing, and public relations need lying. Hear me out on this one, especially if you work in any of those careers.

Bring on the spin

Advertising and marketing create and spin lies in which we, as the consumer, are participants, and sometimes eager ones. Don’t we want to see Ketut and Rhonda get it on, or have George Clooney drop by our local Nespresso store?

Lawyers often concoct fanciful stories to explain their clients’ actions. The legal explanation of how Simon Gittany’s fiancée met her death is gobsmacking.

It’s also understood that journalists can misrepresent their identities to gain access to information. We already know they inject their own foibles and bias’ into stories; just watch any Fox News segment. Closer to home, check out the recent screening of science show Catalyst condemning the widespread Aussie use of cholesterol lowering drugs.

And then we have public relations practitioners who promote stuff – products, services, people and organisations – in the best possible light. Although I work in communications, when I’ve promoted stuff, I’ve said things only in the most positive way to attract lift-off.

The limitations or drawbacks of anything I’ve ever showcased have never been raised. But you, as a consumer or business, accept this is the role of PR, just like advertising and marketing. When I’m a consumer, or working in a business, I do the same.

Truth shapers galore

Then there are politicians who have perfected all sorts of ways to manipulate the truth. I think we all agree their lies swing between sweet little ones and whoppers.

At times, when watching the news closely, I’m sure I’ve spotted a polly shaping the truth, but who knows how many times they ‘get away with it’?

I’ll bet there’s an incredulous backstory as to why the Aussie government has been tapping the mobile phone of Indonesia’s President – and potentially other locals – but I doubt we’ll ever know the full truth, or even part of it.

I assume that as we lie everyday, and some of us lie for a living, lies must hang out everywhere. So, I wonder how many lies I’ve ever been told in a professional setting, and how many I’ve had to create and share? Although, to be fair, perhaps all involved in my professional lie-fest believed they were acting on “the truth”.

  • True or false: sometimes it’s better to not know the truth?


  1. On 27 November, Simon Gittany was found guilty of murdering his fiancée Lisa Harnum. The judge didn’t believe his – or his lawyer’s – fanciful account of her death saying, “His [Gittany’s] account of what happened appeared to exist on borrowed detail. It lacked originality and the subtlety of actual experience.”

  2. […] Cough, cough: we know how the law works Down Under. Mum and/or Dad will hire a lawyer to create a fanciful story that sees the misbehaving or booked Schoolie walk away with a pardon or community […]

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