“It’s true I deceived you but I wasn’t lying.”
The statement, spoken brazenly by a work colleague, momentarily floored me. They claimed they were deceiving without lying but I thought deception and lying were the same thing. A little bit of research suggests there may be a difference.
In ‘Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics’, the author claims there are three different kinds of deception: lying, spinning, and concealment.
Lying is when a person makes a statement he knows to be false in order to deceive the target audience. “Lying can involve making up facts that one knows to be false or denying facts that one knows to be true.” In addition, a person is lying when he uses true facts to make the case that something is true which he knows is not true.
On the other hand, spinning is when a person emphasizes certain facts to make a point, while, at the same time, avoiding inconvenient facts that detract from the point. “Spinning is all about interpreting the known facts in a way that allows the spinner to tell a favorable story.”
Finally, concealment happens when a person doesn’t reveal information that would weaken the point he is trying to make. That person is hiding the truth.
Technically, neither spinning nor concealment are lying. But in none of the cases are you telling the whole truth. So it’s possible to be deceiving without lying.
As a society, we view each of these deceptions differently. The basic tenets of many cultures include the commandment “Thou shalt not lie.” On the other hand, concealment is discouraged but viewed as less troubling than lying; it is designated as the sin of omission. Of the three types of deception, only spinning seems to be permitted by society. According to popular wisdom, traditional marketers and politicians base their careers on spinning.
Follow me on twitter (@jbecher) – no lying, no spinning, and no concealment.