What truth really needs to be told

I only told the truth for 3 days - and learned that there are two kinds of lies

The fact that lying is a bad habit is something that most people have already learned in childhood from parents, carers and other caregivers. The story of Pinocchio, the wooden boy whose lie was blown through his long nose, is not a timeless classic for nothing.

In truth, lying is an unavoidable companion from childhood: According to a study, children learn the ability to lie by the age of two - and usually use it for the rest of their lives.

As the psychotherapist Christian Winkel explains to the “Ärztezeitung”, everyone lies, without exception - several times a day. Reasons for this are "hardship, politeness and the pressure to conform within groups". The whistle when it comes to your colleague's new hairstyle that you don't like, the question of your well-being or the quick excuse that you don't have time to show up at your cousin's birthday (although you prefer to spend the weekend comfortably on the couch will): there are almost always situations in which we could tell the truth - but not.

What is it like to deliberately refrain from lying completely and, as an exception, only tell the truth for a while - regardless of whether the lies are good or bad? If it is so natural to lie, it must be all the more difficult to tell the truth - I think and want to face this experiment myself. In order to avoid a seemingly never-ending game of truth or dare (without the "dare" option) with friends, I don't tell anyone about my plans - and I decide not to fool around for two days.

Horror stories from people who also dared this experiment

In the run-up to my experiment, I read many testimonials from people who dared to do something similar. You make me nervous. I read about people who would have loved to holed up at home all day so that they wouldn't have to keep telling the truth when they'd rather lie. And of people who have conjured up serious relationship crises or a row with the boss, the neighbor or the favorite colleague - just because they were, for once, ruthlessly honest. Even more: some write that their circle of friends has seriously and drastically reduced - and that after only two days without lying!

I admit: First of all, I have respect for this experiment. Not because I lie all the time, but because one often teases automatically without thinking about it - and because I fear the serious consequences that have been revealed to those who have been so courageous.

It's not as bad as expected

First of all: It's not that bad that weekend. I don't wake up feeling queasy, nor do I feel the need to never get out of bed again - or at least for the weekend. Actually everything is completely normal, so that I almost forgot about my experiment. I think about it again and again, but I don't get into such a situation in which I have to be forced to speak the truth - and would prefer to hide behind a big lie. I almost believe in lying so automatically that I don't even notice it - until the time comes.

While zapping around on TV, we come across “Final Destination” - a movie I've seen before. In the cinema. Back then. With my ex-boyfriend. But that's exactly what I don't want to explain when my friend asks me who I watched the film with. “I don't know anymore”, was my answer - only to correct myself immediately afterwards. After all, I'm not allowed to lie.

In research, a distinction is made between white and black lies

As Naryan Kouchaki, a researcher at Harvard University, and Isaac Smith of the University of Utah found out in a study published in 2014, people are more willing to lie in the evening than in the morning. According to the researchers, this is due to everyday stress - and the associated evening exhaustion. Often there is a lack of strength and energy to get involved in conflicts after a strenuous day at work, which is why many prefer to fall back on white lies. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, as the psychologist Dominic Hennig explains to me in an interview: “In research, a distinction is made between white and black lies. While the white lies serve to spare the interaction partner, to spare him negative things or to consolidate and intensify the relationship, the black lies serve to gain a clearly egotistical advantage. "

Relationships are made stronger by lying - but not by all

As the psychologist goes on, you can even strengthen relationships if you consciously use small white lies to avoid conflict. According to the psychologist, white lies also support group formation. If you do this too often, however, there is a risk of escalation due to the lack of conflicts and the joint clarification of problems - and your relationship in turn suffers as a result. Likewise, trust in your relationship suffers if you regularly resort to "black or anti-social lies". So this weekend I consciously forego my white lie and mention my ex-boyfriend.

I lie by mistake - even if it sounds stupid

Let's be honest - on a Friday evening I have far nicer things in mind than letting the conversation turn to my ex-boyfriend. Of course, I can remember exactly who I saw the film with. I know what time of year it was, in which cinema we saw the film - and even that I opted for salty popcorn instead of sweet, as I usually do. Nevertheless, I don't want to deal with the thought in more detail than necessary - and that's why I automatically and accidentally lied.

It happened to me again on the weekend - not that I throw my ex-boyfriend under the table, but that I accidentally lie and then correct myself immediately. My friend eyed me suspiciously but said nothing more. Then my secret experiment is exposed.

I am lost in thought. My friend asks me what I am thinking about. "Nothing," I say as if shot from the gun - and mentally hit my forehead. Screwed up again. I didn't even deliberately lie, and apart from the fact that I don't want my friend to know about the experiment, I wouldn't do it. Nevertheless, "nothing" is usually my standard answer to the question - not because I don't want to hurt anyone or because I am secretly thinking of something, but because I consider my thoughts to be so insignificant that they are not worth mentioning to me. I don't want to bore my friend with which of my shoes go best with the new pants or whether I should buy a frangipani or morning dew scented candle.

I am caught doing my experiment

But I correct myself and tell the truth: that I am thinking about a project that I am currently working on, but I am not allowed to explain it to him because it would influence the results. “Not to lie?” Asks my friend. Even now I am not allowed to lie. How did he come up with it? Not because I only told the truth just once, but because every time I caught myself fooling around and had to improve.

Since I was blown and I don't see so many (known) people anymore this weekend, I decide to extend my experiment by one day.

There is one more situation this weekend that I remember particularly well. Usually my boyfriend and I cook together almost always, sometimes we order something, there are seldom ready-made products or I just cook alone. This time my friend wants to cook for me - he barricades himself in the kitchen for two hours to prepare his much touted vegetable lasagne. The expectations on my part are therefore high. However, I am already skeptical when I see the ingredients - and know that I don't like the dish like that. I would have used completely different ingredients (a packet of soup vegetables for a lasagna, seriously ?!).

The facial expression doesn't always lie

Indeed - the food is not my taste. It's not bad, but I would have prepared it differently. That's exactly what I tell my friend - even without thinking about the experiment. As often as I accidentally slip out of my mind, I'm usually honest when my boyfriend asks me my opinion. Yes, it's often uncomfortable - I don't have the heart to lie to him in this situation. In addition, the expression on my face often speaks volumes and therefore gives me away by itself.

What did I learn from the experiment? That it is absolutely fine and sometimes even helpful to resort to small white lies or whispers (after all, I would not have been exposed then) but when it comes to really important topics or the question of my opinion, I want to tell the truth - like that as I have done so far. This is exactly what Hennig advises: “White lies can, to a certain extent, be conducive to relationships. If there is an excess of lies and a lack of constructive conflict resolution, the consequences are clearly negative. Once again: the dose makes the poison. "