I forced myself to tell the truth for a week. It cost money and risked ruining friendships

Truth be told

Our most honest reporter spent a week without lying and it turns out even truthful people tell a lot of porkies

10th November 2017

How often do you tell a lie? Once an hour, once a day, once a week?

Well, according to research, people tell an average of two to three lies in a 10-minute conversation. A 2002 study by Professor Robert Feldman at the University of Massachusetts found that the little “white lies” we tell tend to be a bigger part of everyday life than we might think.

But, interestingly, there is also a link between lying and popularity. Researchers discovered that lying convincingly is actually associated with good social skills. It takes social skills to be able to control both your words and what you say non-verbally.

With this in mind, as The Overtake’s most honest reporter (a moniker I didn’t give myself) I thought I would give a lie-free week a whirl.

It certainly wasn’t as easy as I was expecting.

Monday

It can’t be too hard, I think, as I wander into the kitchen with my boyfriend to get some breakfast before heading off to work. “I bought your favourite cereal,” my boyfriend beams at me, while I cast my eyes over the three boxes of Curiously Cinnamon lined up on the side, glum with the realisation that I’m going to have to correct him. Curiously Cinnamon, while a lovely choice of cereal, is in actual fact not my favourite brand. I only really said I liked them because he did. Great, Cereal-Gate has commenced at 7.30 on a Monday morning. Not a major outing of honesty (I know, I know, I’m easing into the radical honesty thing) but I’m very much an anything-for-the-easy-life kinda gal. My boyfriend seems downcast about the whole cereal saga and leaves for work in a huff.

I’m already regretting thinking this would be straightforward.

OK, fresh start. I’m at the office, and tentatively remind my editor that I’m on my no lying week. She’s sympathetic and thankfully doesn’t try to catch me out in a lie. Instead, she just mentions (quite a few times) that she’s pretty happy that it’s something she doesn’t have to do herself.

Tuesday

I get to work and immediately open up a WhatsApp message from my friend asking if I’m free for a call this evening. I can’t really be bothered and I’d much rather go home and binge on Line of Duty. I contemplate lying and telling her I’m busy or something more acceptable but, nope, I persevere and reluctantly inform her that I’m tired and need an evening of chilling and binging television. She happily accepts and offers to call me tomorrow instead.

This time last week I’d told all of my friends that my WhatsApp had weirdly crashed and I couldn’t reply to any messages. In reality, the app was working fine, I was simply being unresponsive. Whoops. Now when I receive a message I’m forced to reply pretty much straight away because I can hardly tell them I can’t be bothered to reply. I spend the day rapidly replying to each message as soon as I’ve read it so that my friends don’t stress over the whole blue tick thing.

Really, all this honesty is making me less productive, if anything. And yes, in answer to all my honesty critics out there, I could just turn my phone off but I will be the first to throw up my hands and admit that I’m a classic phone-addicted millennial. See, look at me being all honest.

Wednesday

I spend four hours making a quiz at work. I’m not even trying to look busy as I’m genuinely working hard trying to create a funny quiz. The art of being funny, as I’m sure my friends would gleefully assure you, is not something that comes naturally to me.  I realise I’m being MUCH quieter than normal – I think I’m scared to open my mouth in case I need to tell the truth.

I get home and FaceTime my brother. He’s wearing a very questionable Wavey Garms t-shirt straight out of some vintage account found on Depop. It looks ridiculous. I don’t even try to sugar-coat how bad the shirt is. Somehow it’s easier being brutally honest with family members as I know I will be forgiven (someday). I make a mental note to check when I next go home that the shirt has been recycled/given away/burnt.

Thursday

Thursday ends up giving me some much-needed downtime from only telling the truth. I shadow my editor who is doing one of the most fascinating interviews I’ve ever attended with the founders of a women’s refuge. I have no need to lie and pretend I enjoy the interview because it was so incredibly interesting. Sorry, I know I’m not providing much drama – yet.

Friday

I go out for tapas with my boyfriend. All is going well, we order a variety of things – including a couple of things we probably wouldn’t normally order, which turns out to be a mistake.

The waiter asks me if I like the food. Normally, it would be an automatic “yes, thank you”, but this time I have to tell him that actually, no, I’m not that fussed about the pork. “It hasn’t got much flavour,” I whisper, looking down at my napkin hoping that the chair swallows me whole.

He handles it super professionally and exchanges the tapas dish for a different one. I still feel really guilty, however, and increase my tip to make up for my honesty. What am I doing? So meek, so British! I remind myself that it is OK to have an opinion.

Saturday

I’m in London for the weekend for Notting Hill Carnival. I meet some friends for drinks at a pub in the evening and one of my friends has two massive spots on her face and I know this is where the honesty policy is not going to go down well.

She starts talking about her spots and how big they are and have I noticed them? I say “yes” in a jokey, kind of awkward, manner but she laughs (thank god!) and, would you believe it, she thanks me for being honest.

I can’t help thinking that I hope that my friends lie and tell me my own aren’t so bad when I inevitably sprout a faceful of karma spots as punishment for my honesty. I know that I have gotten off very lightly as my friend took my comments in her stride. I could have been dealing with tears if it had been anyone else I had to be honest with.

Sunday

The morning passes without incident as I’m severely hungover so can barely open my mouth to talk.

I head to the carnival with some university friends in the afternoon. My best friend lives in London and I really want to see her and so I message her about coming to meet me. She had been pretty elusive about coming to the carnival all week, so I try and pin her down. Annoyingly, her response is that she isn’t coming because of “the big crowds”, and because last year her friends went and “they had to have a whistle tune so that when they got separated by the crowds they could find each other as there’s no signal.”

I’m gutted I won’t see her but I think that stomping into full keyboard warrior mode isn’t helpful, so I don’t say anything at all. And it turns out I don’t need to, since the double-blue-tick-but-no-response says everything. Of course, I’ve decided not to lie but I don’t have to say everything that’s on my mind.

That ends up being a very wise decision as, lo and behold, when I arrive at our friends for pre-drinks, she’s there. She had wanted to surprise me and I immediately feel a mixture of guilt and enormous relief.

The carnival is so much fun and we don’t even have to whistle to each other once.

The result

My lie-free week wasn’t too bad, I just won’t be doing it again anytime soon. Surprisingly, I managed to tell the truth without having a single confrontation, even if it didn’t always feel good.

I’d much rather white lie my way through an easy life, although I did discover that I sometimes I lie out of laziness, which is ridiculous, or because I don’t want to offend people. In future, I’ll try to curb more pointless lies but it’s clear that, at least for me, they’re an essential part of daily life.

10th November 2017