Accusing people of lying

We’re from the Midwest, and in our part of the Midwest we don’t lie, we don’t dissimulate, and silence is deadly because if you can’t say anything nice, you don’t say anything at all.  In the Midwest one of the rudest things a person can do is say someone is lying (without proof). We don’t *do* that.  We’re not always the softest-tongued people, but you can trust what we say when we say it.

So when someone accuses someone else of lying, especially when the accused person is not there to defend hirself, we don’t really feel a need to be nice to that someone. That’s one reason people who say that “parents who say their kids are gifted are liars” are not welcome to say such things here. And we’re not happy when people make statements that they know people IRL who pretend to be happy or pretend to be balanced. Those are horrible bitchy things to say, especially if you don’t have any proof. And they’re worse when you’re telling them to someone from the Midwest where lying is taboo.

One of us has also lived in SoCal and knows that saying things people want to hear is more the social order and there isn’t as big a taboo on bending the truth. There was a period of adjustment for her learning that. Of course, she didn’t change herself to start bending the truth (when she said, “Let’s do lunch,” she really meant it– especially if she said it 3 times), but she learned the social cues that put truth probabilities to people’s statements so she could figure out what was actually going to happen and what people thought might be nice to happen if the stars aligned. That sort of thing.  So perhaps our reaction to accusing people of lying behind their backs isn’t at the same level as or as understandable for everyone on the internet.

Still, if you’re going to accuse people of lying without proof… here is not a good place to do it.  We’re likely to get out the big stick of moderation after warning you politely.  Go find a blog with other assholes and you can complain about whatever you want behind peoples’ backs.  That’s the beauty of the internet.  But you’re not worth our time, and despite Midwesterners being a generally hospitable people, you’re not welcome here unless you can learn some manners.

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78 Responses to “Accusing people of lying”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    Do you think people who say those things really think themselves as liars or do you think they are just ignorant or narrow minded? People may really believe its not possible to be happy because they have never been that way themselves…so therefore the only logical conclusion they make is that you must be faking it. I guess it’s still rude but it may not always be coming from a place of jealousy or hatred.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It’s one of those things where on the one hand we feel sorry for them, but on the other hand, if you’re gonna be a loser, you shouldn’t make it affect other people. You can be a loser without being an asshole about it. (And you’re much more likely to stop being a loser if you’re not an asshole about it!) In any case, we’re not really interested in interacting with rainclouds if they’re going to throw lightening at folks, especially behind their backs.

  2. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    I can’t believe I missed some shitte on the Internet! I gotta go look.

  3. feMOMhist Says:

    I definitely missed something including WHO GOT TENURE? Mazel Tov!

  4. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I live in a part of the world very similar to SoCal. Lying is so common down here. I remember my ex mother in law telling me that your husband lying to you is just something you have to live with and understand they do it because they love you and want you to be happy with them.

    However, I personally don’t like people talking bad about others in general– especially loudly and with many assumptions woven in.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      There are a lot of things I love about SoCal (food, weather, democrats, mountains, ocean…), but there are definitely huge cultural differences. I actually feel a little more comfortable in the region we’re settled in despite the huge differences in political and religious beliefs just because day-to-day interactions are more like what I’ve grown up with. I don’t make quite as many mistakes from not understanding the cultural landscape.

      Though I am a bit weirded out by the respect for authority they teach the kids here. All the ma’aming, and their willingness to believe what you tell them in the classroom. Getting them out of that mindset and willing to question is a challenge.

      • oilandgarlic Says:

        I’m in SoCal and believe me, we lie big. I think it has to do with being surrounded by showbiz types, where no one wants to burn bridges, consumed with maintaining an image, and are just so used to lying especially with the “let’s do lunch” talk. I hate it and I’ve been all my adult life! It’s definitely hard for non-Angelenos to get used to.

        I do know many non-Angelenos who also embellish the truth, however, to keep up a certain image. And I’m NOT saying it’s you but it seems like all my parent friends have genius kids.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        No reason for them not to all have genius kids. Southern Californians are also way more attractive on average than most people in the US. SoCal attracts people from all over the US so there’s a lot of selection, genetic diversity, industry (not just the business), high quality food, high quality child-care, stuff to do, etc. etc. etc.

        And maybe you have higher quality friends than average. We definitely seem to attract a more articulate group of readers and commenters than the average blog. (WAAAAY more intelligent if you take say the CNN comments as “average”… I sure hope that’s not representative of average…)

    • Rumpus Says:

      I physically shuddered when I read the bit about husbands lying. Apparently that gets my Irish up.

      I learned to be a listener from my Midwestern mother. An unsuspecting soul might not hear what she doesn’t say, but that’s usually the most important part of the conversation. I continually strive to be better at choosing my words carefully and precisely because communication is so vital.

      And yeah, different areas of the US definitely have different social norms for communications.

  5. Pamela Says:

    Wow. Did I miss something??

  6. mareserinitatis Says:

    I definitely missed something, but I also know about the whole lying thing. You just don’t do it! Unfortunately, even here, I run into a lot of people who like to express thing euphemistically…and to me, it just boils down to lying. Just be honest so we can deal with it and get it out of the way. blech.

  7. Practical Parsimony Says:

    Exactly what did I miss? I lived in the Midwest, and I can assure you people lie, cheat, and generally break all the commandments that folks do elsewhere. And, I am not saying you are lying.

    When people are not outrageous in other areas, are conservative, then a person is not looking for lies. My anthropology prof friend from the Midwest is the biggest liar I know. She may be an anomaly, but she lies all the time.

    I am generally not fooled with outward piety and can still recognize a lie without concrete proof. My ex was baffled and could not figure out how I knew people were lying six months before he figured it out. I just picked up on non-verbal cues. I don’t take everyone at face value if I detect something amiss. And, I am not saying you are lying.

    What did I miss?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Obviously it is a bit of hyperbole to say that nobody in an entire region lies (especially given say, the history of IL governors). However the social acceptability of prevarication, and how one deals with marginal cases (e.g. polite lie vs. silence) differs across regions.

      • Linda Says:

        Ha, ha, ha! “…especially given say, the history of IL governors..” Boo-yah! This IL-dweller knows You are so, so right! Hey, I live in Chicago where a fair number of alderman have been convicted of crimes, too.

  8. Cloud Says:

    Hey! Congrats on tenure! That is awesome.

    I think the degree to which polite lies are employed in SoCal varies quite a bit with your subregion and what industry dominates (or dominated) the culture there. So closer to Hollywood = more polite fakeness. Here in San Diego, the military dominated the culture for awhile, so we have a slightly more straight-shooting norm. Or maybe I just experience it that way because I mostly move in a fairly “small world” crowd- i.e., everyone knows everyone else, or is only separated from them by one or two degrees. I have noticed that my day care crowd behaves differently than my work crowd.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      our working parent middle-class daycare crowd seemed a lot less stereotypical Socal than the crowd we met through other channels, and my grad school friend from Orange County is in a different sub-regional culture entirely (both OC and a specific ethnic enclave) and gets very upset if you mention SoCal stereotypes… but that doesn’t make the stereotypes any less real for a good portion of the population (I ran across the description of some teenagers while we were waiting for the Hollywood bowl bus in an old post of ours the other day, and how my east coast grad school friend said she’d believed our OC friend that the stereotypes were completely false, but now she realized they had some truth)

  9. Debbie M Says:

    I prefer silence over polite lies, but I prefer polite truths over silence. I basically ALWAYS assume people are telling the truth to the best of their ability unless I actually know they are not. The obvious example is that you know someone thinks that someone else is terrible at their job but then at an awards ceremony (for longevity, obviously) or retirement party, they actually claim the opposite. I prefer the ones who talk about the horrible employee’s interesting hobbies.

    My parents were born and raised in the midwest, so that could explain a few things about me. Also, being a Girl Scout for a couple of decades. I sort of wish I could detect lies–surely that’s important sometimes. That whole thing where you don’t know what’s wrong, but you think you might be in danger–I think it’s quite possible that I don’t have that.

    But usually my philosophy is that if someone is dumb enough to say they like the present I got them/food I brought to the party/etc., they are going to have to deal with the possibility of getting it again. And I do go out of my way to make it easy to tell me things I don’t want to be true but do want to know. (And I put the gift receipt in with gifts, when possible.)

    But then I also know that a lot of sociopaths are charming and good liars, so I have this bias (at least while consuming TV/movies/books) that someone who is way more awesome than everybody else might have something up their sleeve.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      heehee! Yes, all of that sounds completely right to us.

      Well, except that last part… we’re neither charming nor good liars, but we’re pretty awesome and we hang around with a lot of pretty awesome peoples. Though for a limited subset of awesome, not Blagojevich-sized awesome.

      In terms of protection… generally if something seems too good to be true, or seems like it might be a Ponzi-scheme, we can avoid those. But I’m not sure we think of the people who sell such things as people, or maybe we are willing to give salesmen the benefit of the doubt that they might be wrong about something but they do believe it themselves. On the East coast (in the cities) one of us learned that if someone is smiling at you it means they want your money… that’s an unpleasant regional difference.

  10. J Liedl Says:

    First? OMG, yay for the half-tenured status change.

    Second, oh, I understand completely about the attitude toward accusations of lying when the person isn’t actually being addressed. It really gets my back up, yup, you betcha.

  11. rented life Says:

    Congrats on tenure!

    I hate when people say “let’s do lunch!” and I say “Yes!” And they never follow through. I also hate e-mailing people and they never respond about said lunch plans. If you’re just “being polite” as it’s often said around here…then don’t get my hopes up that I might get to have lunch out of the office for fun. Seriously. Same with not showing up when you say you will for a visit. If you’re going to be late, call. I hate figuring out other people’s meaning of “I’ll be there at 6:30.” I’m at your house at 6:30. Showing up at 6:45, 6:50, 7 is not ok. (Sorry…I get that one a lot.)

    I haven’t figured out manners around here. I think it depends on where you are in my state. (I live on the East coast.) Living closer to “the greatest city on earth” (not my words at all), it’s rude all the way here. Where we used to live was polite enough, you knew your neighbors, could say hi, and while you might not be entirely honest, you’re more likely to be silent than anything else. Keep it to small talk, it’s safer.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think the East coast is the part of the country where we fit in least. Neither of us are crazy about it. And we both get hives from places in the East coast, though from different cities!

      Among friends in SoCal, we would actually tell people different times for things based on their average late time! We did that in graduate school for international students from specific nationalities as well (after they’d shown a track record of lateness)… what’s hard are the people who are randomly late rather than predictably late. Also in SoCal they don’t seem to mind too much if you leave without them if they’re late, which is at least something. It’s a different equilibrium.

      • rented life Says:

        It definitely depends on the cities. The one we’re from (and moving back to), has a reputation for being “Mid-Western” in values–though a true Mid-Westerner might disagree, it’s certainly nice than more cities on the East Coast. All the “major” cities hate the city we like, maybe that says something.

        We’ve done the telling different times to people too. The worst that’s happened to me, living where we do now, was someone who invited me to dinner, I said yes, then she canceled saying she made plans with someone else instead (um?) and then a day later asked if I’d go to dinner with her again because the other plans fell through. Don’t make it so obvious that I’m not your first choice. And don’t be a flake. I did lie in that case–I said *I* now had plans.

      • bogart Says:

        See your reply doesn’t even come close to counting as a lie in my (southeastern US) background. You *did* have other plans: avoiding having dinner with someone who treated you like chopped liver.

  12. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    So, I have looked all around this blogge’s comments trying to find the “accusation of lying”, and can’t seem to find it. How about a hint where to look?

  13. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    Oh, and BTW, you do know that once you get promoted to tenure, the first thing you’re supposed to do is disappear for a week to lie around the house and drink booze and eat pizza and candy, right?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Haha, wish I could, but the NIH won’t let me. Apparently when you have a score of 25 they make you do a lot more work than if you are outright rejected or obviously fundable. Also need to get an IRB in. Also have a policy brief due next week. Also promised I’d read this paper for a colleague so he can send it out. Also have to spend down money from a grant that runs out next week. Also…

      But lying around the house sure does sound appealing. Instead it’s like the semester hasn’t ended except with research instead of students. I think I like the research better.

      Maybe next week…

      • rented life Says:

        You can still eat fancy cheeses though.

      • Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

        25 is a f*cken great score!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Is it usual for them to have you go through the summary statement weaknesses and respond to it as if it’s a referee report?

      • Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

        This is what the program officer will do for a grant that is in the “gray area” of scores, and for which the possibility of funding still exists. How this exactly works administratively depends on the Institute, but the common substance is that only a subset of the grants in this gray area can be funded and there is a mechanism for deciding which ones. Your program officer wants you to respond to the summary statement criticisms as you would in the introduction to a resubmission of the grant application (just like responding to reviews of a manuscript) as one of the inputs to this decision process.

        Accordingly, what you want to do with your response is provide your program officer with the best possible ammunition for advocating that your grant should be one of the ones chosen for funding. This means making the most convincing possible case that the weaknesses pointed out by the reviewers are minor and fixable and that if you were to fix them in a resubmission of the grant application, it would get a clearly fundable score.

        If you want me to look at the Summary Statement and give you some suggestions, I’d be happy to. I’ve been dealing with this shitte as an applicant and reviewer for a long time.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It’s too late! But thank you for the offer. :)

  14. chacha1 Says:

    congratulations! now all those “what do we do” posts have to be revised. :-)

    re: prevarication, mendacity, exaggeration, avoidance, denial, and wishful thinking … As a long time SoCal resident born in the Midwest, raised there to age 7, and raised in the deep South thereafter, my personal experience is that people everywhere cannot be relied upon to mean what they say. :-)

    I expect the best and prepare for the worst. Self-interest generally trumps everything else, and people anywhere will lie to protect themselves, make themselves look better, or to avoid hurting someone else’s feelings. I am constantly being “lied to” by associates who say they will do something and then never deliver. I don’t take it personally, I just try very hard to avoid doing that myself. If I’m not going to do something, I say so. If someone asks my opinion, I’ll frame it as tactfully as I can but deliver it honestly.

    Purely in my experience & observation – I certainly don’t believe this applies population-wide – I saw much more *lying to one’s self* in the south than I ever have here in CA. The people I know here tend not to believe the good about themselves … the people in the south I knew tended not to believe there was anything not-good about themselves. :p

    I really do not understand the mindset of someone who would accuse someone (who they don’t even know) of lying, especially about something as subjective as personal happiness, or as variable as an assessment of intelligence. I know people who seem pretty miserable but they swear they are happy. And others (more of these) who seem to have charmed lives and do nothing but complain.

    But I 100% agree that if people cannot be civil, they should be consigned to Cell Block Asshole and relieved of their commenting privileges.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It’s like yesterday’s zen koan… if a person is deluded into thinking themselves happy, are they really not happy?

      • bogart Says:

        According to Miss Manners, the ultimate authority on happiness (and honesty) in my book, no. That is, yes. Yes, we have no bananas! No, that is They really are not not happy or in other words they really are happy. Delusion is happiness! Provided it’s the right sort of delusion of course.

        And on a more serious, or at least clearer, note, Congratulations! And good luck with the NIH. Man, is that a process …

  15. Linda Says:

    Congrats on getting tenure!

    As a born and raised Midwesterner, I’ve always thought of myself as plain-spoken and forthright. That doesn’t mean it’s OK to be rude, though. There is always a way to get your message across clearly that doesn’t involve verbally smacking someone, right?

    I’ve only ever spent a weekend in Southern Calfornia. That was enough for me to know that I would not like to live there. The weather may be nice, but it’s not worth putting up with the traffic and fake people. I do love the Central California coast and the Bay Area, though.

    This fall I’ll be driving through northern CA and into Oregon, so I’ll hopefully get a feel for the people in that area. CA is a huge state so there must be quite a bit of variation.

  16. mom2boy Says:

    So odd that there are whole regions that are so homogenous of character. I think my county has different types of expected behavior in every direction, much less the entire state.


    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      See previous response about hyperbole.

      It may be difficult to see general differences if you haven’t lived in several different parts of the country for long periods of time. Or if you live someplace with a lot of transplants.

      Think of it like the chart of overlapping normal curves like in the post here on stereotype threat. Only the two curves are probably a bit farther apart.

  17. Practical Parsimony Says:

    When someone assures me they won’t lie to me/cheat me/hurt me in any way because he/she is a Christian, I make sure my back is in a corner! “Christians would never do that!” Lie or delusion? When these declarations are made even when I am not doubting, I have reason to be wary. IMO

  18. Debbie M Says:

    When someone feels they have to tell me that they are not lying, cheating, etc. (for any reason or for no reason), I consider that a bad sign. (Again, fortunately I mostly notice this behavior in TV, books, and movies.) Except for the “No disrespect, but…” sorts of remarks. Eh, I don’t expect everyone to respect me, and if they actually tell me the problem then I might actually notice.

    Yes, I prefer to hang around geeks and nerds with no social skills (um, like me?) than polite people who I don’t really get. You do have to hit me over the head sometimes, with a brick wall…

  19. oilandgarlic Says:

    More clarification to my comment about “genius” kids. I think it’s just very proud parents / grandparents most of the time, but yes I do have friends/family with kids that tested gifted as well. I think my kids are the only non-geniuses around!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Kids are little bundles of potential… and they’re all pretty much amazing. At least until middle-school.

      • oilandgarlic Says:

        Agreed. I definitely think all kids have much potential, just in varying areas. Even though I don’t think mine are genius, I think they have lots of skills and smarts, and who knows? Maybe they will be gifted but haven’t tested yet. I would be happy even if they’re not because I know so many successful, happy people who were not top of their class.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Smart is a moving object anyway. It is not a fixed thing. You can start out testing gifted and fall through the cracks, and you can get smarter as you grow so long as you keep working hard at things. Thinking is just like athletics or music or any skill. It takes practice and even if you don’t start out naturally in genius level, you can get up to a pretty high skill just through dedication and practice alone.

        What’s most important to us is interest levels. My mother tells me that one of my uncles, though smart, was lazy in *everything* unless you told him he needed to know it in order to become a pilot. Then he worked at it. (Apparently he did things like turn in the exact same book report for 5 years running…) He wasn’t stupid, just unmotivated with the exception of one thing. We’re hoping our kids will be a bit more generally motivated than that, but sometimes people do have that rare single passion.

        When I was an RA at one of the more scary schools in the country, the students who did the best by the end were the ones who came in the least prepared but worked hard until they “got” things. The ones who crashed and burned were the ones for whom the first year was easy. They’d hit a wall and not know what to do.

    • Practical Parsimony Says:

      Read Multiple Intelligences. “Smart” is not all about IQ tests testing math and verbal skills.

      My son was excluded from the gifted program in the 6th grade because of a 4th grade screwup of his own doing. Plus, he was tested as having an IQ of only 100. I went to the elementary school (K-5) and asked a few teachers if they thought his IQ was that low. Two laughed aloud. They remembered his 4th grade test of some sort. He did lots of four-part questions and failed to answer C every time. He only missed one part of one question otherwise, on the whole test. He hurried through everything. He was so sad to lose the distinction (in his mind) of the smartest kid in school.

      He begged and even cried, wanting me to go to middle school to get him in the gifted program. I could. I had the status in the community and the nerve, but I thought this was a lesson he had to learn early–Mama will not make everything right for you. I figured he should learn this lesson on a small thing in his life and early.

      He is an English teacher–university and high school–and married to an English teacher. She said he is smart but won’t take the time to learn anything he does not have to–how to use the scanner because she knows how.

      Genius brats are unimpressive to me now and then.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Howard Gardener would be more compelling if he had more of a say, research base. But yes, achievement is important and tests do not measure everything.

        So you’re saying that lesson about women not making everything right didn’t take? Maybe he would have learned more about overcoming challenges if he’d been pushed into a better learning environment for his needs.

        We’re not sure how to take that last sentence. Brats of any kind are unimpressive. One of the big concerns for kids for whom things come easy is that they will start to give up when things don’t come easy. Kids who are told they are smart all the time will often give up if something is difficult because they think that if they can’t do something people will think they’re not smart anymore so it’s better not to try. That’s something that we want to avoid by having our children (genius or not) meet challenges on a regular basis and to get used to the idea that sometimes things take multiple tries and perseverance to get, and that’s ok.

  20. g2-e3aeccdfae01481f9606a0bedb5510d7 Says:

    Congratulations on the big tenure news!

  21. jacqjolie Says:

    Congratulations on tenure! I think that happened?
    Lying isn’t good. It would mean you’d have to remember too many things. I read somewhere that to spot someone lying that you should get them to tell the story backwards. Apparently if it didn’t happen they won’t be able to. OTOH, that only works for certain types of lies. Another one of those things I wish I’d known 20 years ago.

  22. Susan Partlan (@susanpartlan) Says:

    Congratulations on your tenure! As a person born in Iowa and raised by mid-westerners mostly in the metro NY area, I’m fascinated by regional differences. I’ve not lived in So Cal but have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1990. At first I found SFBA people to be kind of fake — lots of smiles and premature hugging compared to NYers. Now I do it too.

  23. Funny about Money Says:

    Wait, what?! You got tenure? How’d i miss that?

    Awesome!!! Congratulations!

    Not having a regional affiliation of my own, I have to make it up as I go… In my experience, everyone lies now and again, sometimes to him- or herself, sometimes to others.

    One might not state aloud that even those whom we admire and respect lie occasionally for reasons selfish or altruistic, but one may assume it to be so. So, what’s the big deal about it?

  24. Mid June 2012 Blog Update | Modest Money Says:

    [...] Accusing people of lying on Grumpy Rumblings Of The Half-Tenured [...]

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