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Telling the truth vs. maniuplating (was Motivation to Complete Stories)

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  • Jeff Nielsen
    For me personally, I have noticed that I have a much more difficult time being completely truthful in my communication when I want something badly. When
    Message 1 of 13 , Apr 1, 2005
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      For me personally, I have noticed that I have a much more difficult
      time being completely truthful in my communication when I want
      something badly. When strong feelings are involved, it is easy to
      deceive myself about whether I am "simply telling the truth" or being
      manipulative.

      For example, let's suppose that my wife approaches me about spending
      $2000 to do some re-modeling of the bathrooms. Because I am the "bean
      counter" at home, I have a lot more information about the state of our
      finances than she does. So she asks me, "Do we have money to do
      this?"

      The truth is that there are lots of other ways that I would prefer to
      spend--or not spend--that money. Re-modeling the bathrooms is
      obviously not as high on my priority list as it is on hers. And it
      turns out (based on observing my reactions when this really happened)
      that this (money) is a subject I *feel* very strongly about.

      So how do I answer her question? Do we have the money? There's no
      way I can present all of the data in my head about the balance of each
      account, how much income I anticipate over the next year, how well we
      have kept our budget in the past, etc. etc. etc. So what information
      do I choose to present and how do I word it?

      No matter how hard I "prep" or practice my answer, it doesn't seem to
      matter which specific words I use as long as my intent is to get her
      to do what I want--e.g., not to spend the money on the bathrooms.
      What I hear Kent saying is that, before I can "just tell the truth" to
      her about our financial situation, I need to overcome my fear about
      the outcome not being as desirable from where I stand.

      I do find that this fits for me. Although I may use words that are
      true, my desire to bring the other person around to my point of view
      often gets in the way of really "telling the truth".

      Of course, I don't presume to know how well this fits for others on
      the list.

      Jeff Nielsen
      Digital Focus
      www.digitalfocus.com


      From: "Ilja Preuss" <preuss@...>

      > Kent,
      >
      > I can't speak for Ron, but I have the feeling that both "simply telling
      > the
      > truth" and "carefully couching what I say" have very different meanings to
      > us.
      >
      > One model for communication has a sender who encodes a message and a
      > receiver who decodes it, with the desired effect of transporting an idea
      > from the sender to the receiver.
      >
      > Does that compute? Does it still sound like "manipulation" to you?
    • Laurent Bossavit
      Jeff, ... You ve just answered it thusly: The truth is that there are lots of other ways that I would prefer to spend--or not spend--that money. Isn t that a
      Message 2 of 13 , Apr 1, 2005
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        Jeff,

        > So how do I answer her question?

        You've just answered it thusly: "The truth is that there are lots of
        other ways that I would prefer to spend--or not spend--that money."

        Isn't that a perfectly fine way of answering the question ?

        Cheers,

        -[Laurent]-
        We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as
        creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free!
        We can learn to fly! -- Richard Bach (Jonathan Livingston Seagull)
      • Steve Bate
        ... Hi Jeff, This fits for me as well. My observations lead me to believe that it fits for most people. The topic of Truth is very complex. I ve heard some
        Message 3 of 13 , Apr 1, 2005
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          > From: Jeff Nielsen [mailto:jeff.nielsen@...]
          >...
          >
          > I do find that this fits for me. Although I may use words that are
          > true, my desire to bring the other person around to my point of view
          > often gets in the way of really "telling the truth".
          >
          > Of course, I don't presume to know how well this fits for others on
          > the list.

          Hi Jeff,

          This fits for me as well. My observations lead me to believe that
          it fits for most people.

          The topic of Truth is very complex. I've heard some people claim
          that any time one doesn't speak the truth, it's a lie. This isn't
          always the case. At least for me, a lie implies intention. A
          person can communicate inaccurate information but not be lying.
          They may just be misinformed.

          The intention component of a lie is another complex topic. It's
          one thing to tell a lie with self-aware intention. Most people
          I know rarely do that. It's another thing to tell a lie with
          unconscious or only slightly self-aware intention. This latter
          form of lie is very difficult to address because the person
          doing the lying probably doesn't see it themselves and have
          defense mechanisms (denial, rationalization, hiding, ...)
          to ensure it isn't seen in others. I know this is true for
          myself and I've spent much effort in an attempt to bring
          awareness to those subconscious patterns so I can have the at
          least the possibility of changing them. I still have a long
          way to go and I'm guessing I always will.

          I agree with you that the desire to convince someone of
          something can make it more likely that lies will be told
          as a result. Of course, the most effective lies are
          parasites to some truth. Those are the kind I see the
          most on this list. Other labels for these kinds of lies
          can be "spin", "evangelism" , "marketing", "considerate
          communication" and so on. I'm not saying these activities
          /always/ involve lying, but that sometimes people use
          those labels to justify their lies.

          I don't know anybody who doesn't lie. I do know people who
          intentional make an effort to communicate with authenticity,
          honesty, and transparency. It's often risky. I respect those
          people very, very much and I try to be like them.

          Regards,

          Steve
        • Victor
          There is a difference between truth and communicating it. There was a time when the truth was that the Earth was flat, and then that it was the Center of the
          Message 4 of 13 , Apr 1, 2005
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            There is a difference between truth and communicating it.

            There was a time when the truth was that the Earth was flat, and then that
            it was the Center of the Universe. When Galileo came with a new and
            improved truth, he paid dearly for communicating it.
            The problem today is that there are many Galileos and many Little Popes, and
            the scene gets repeating itself daily all over the place.

            So, the issue is not just about being truthful, but also about how to convey
            the truth in a way that is clear without being threatening to the receiver,
            personally. Or how to help the listener being more receptive to it.
            Sometimes this is not an easy feat and requires a certain emotional and
            social intelligence to do it right. Other times there is no way of doing it
            both right and smooth. Then comes bankruptcy as a reality check. Yet other
            times the membership price for belonging to the Flat Earth Society is not
            all that high, so what the heck.

            Victor

            ===========================================


            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "Laurent Bossavit" <laurent@...>
            To: <extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Friday, April 01, 2005 12:04 PM
            Subject: Re: [XP] Telling the truth vs. maniuplating (was Motivation to
            Complete Stories)


            >
            > Jeff,
            >
            > > So how do I answer her question?
            >
            > You've just answered it thusly: "The truth is that there are lots of
            > other ways that I would prefer to spend--or not spend--that money."
            >
            > Isn't that a perfectly fine way of answering the question ?
            >
            > Cheers,
            >
            > -[Laurent]-
            > We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as
            > creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free!
            > We can learn to fly! -- Richard Bach (Jonathan Livingston Seagull)
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > To Post a message, send it to: extremeprogramming@...
            >
            > To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to:
            extremeprogramming-unsubscribe@...
            >
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            >
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            >
          • John D. Mitchell
            ... [...] ... Well, part of the problem is that the use of the English language in this thread has gotten a bit wacky. We all manipulate constantly. We are
            Message 5 of 13 , Apr 1, 2005
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              >>>>> "Jeff" == Jeff Nielsen <jeff.nielsen@...> writes:
              [...]

              > For me personally, I have noticed that I have a much more difficult time
              > being completely truthful in my communication when I want something
              > badly. When strong feelings are involved, it is easy to deceive myself
              > about whether I am "simply telling the truth" or being manipulative.

              Well, part of the problem is that the use of the English language in this
              thread has gotten a bit wacky.

              We all "manipulate" constantly. We are e.g., saying something with a
              purpose and so our manipulation of our words are an attempt to manipulate
              things to said purpose.

              IMHO, a better question to ask ourselves is are we trying to impose our
              view of reality over another's. I.e., are we honestly and forthrightly
              having a discusison or am I trying to coerce you, by hook or by crook, to
              subjugate you to my will?


              A lot of folks have heard of BF Skinner's experiments with "Behavioral
              Modification' (BM). Alas, most people have missed some crucial facts
              around imposition To illustrate: A BM experiment was done with school kids
              and their teachers. Some teachers were taught the basic BM skills around
              reinforcement and asked about the "trouble" kids in their classes. Those
              teachers then tried to use BM to "fix" those annoying brats. Of course,
              the teachers failed miserably. A group of troublemakers were taken aside
              by the researchers and taught to play a game where the only "goal" was to
              manipulate the teacher (and gee, here are some ideas you might try, hint
              hint). Note clearly that the goal was NOT to e.g. manipulate the teachers
              for something (such as a better grade), it was merely to have fun
              manipulating them. As you might suspect by now, the kids had great fun.
              When the teachers were asked about who were the best kids, who was
              troublesome, etc. what do you think happened? The BM kids went from being
              troublemakers to being pets and stars. Now, what did the researchers
              observe "objectively"? The "troublesome" kids weren't any less
              troublesome, they just had the teachers trained. Of course, the teachers
              were completely clueless and vehemently denied that they had been
              manipulated.

              Take care,
              John
            • Dale Emery
              Hi Jeff, ... I ve been thinking about this while traveling recently. Why not lie? For one thing, I feel bad about the effect my lie has on the other person.
              Message 6 of 13 , Apr 12, 2005
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                Hi Jeff,

                > For me personally, I have noticed that I have a much more
                > difficult time being completely truthful in my communication
                > when I want something badly.

                I've been thinking about this while traveling recently.

                Why not lie? For one thing, I feel bad about the effect my lie
                has on the other person. For another, I worry about the being
                found out.

                Sometimes I lie if I think I won't feel bad about how the lie
                affects the other person. I might think that the negative effect
                on the other person is very small. Or I might not care about the
                other person.

                Sometimes I lie if I'm not worried about being found out. I
                might think that there's little chance of being found out. Or I
                might think that being found out won't have bad effects.

                I suspect that every time I lie, I've decided that the benefits
                outweigh my expectation of feeling bad or worrying.

                And sometimes my decision is unconscious. I lie to myself, so
                that I don't know that I'm lying to the other person.

                As far as I can tell, I'm slowly reducing all of these reasons to
                lie from my life. I try not to second-guess what effect my lies
                might have on other people. I am learning a lot about how to
                make my truth less hurtful. I am learning to care about people I
                might not have cared about before. I try to understand that even
                "little" breaches of honesty can kill trust. I'm trying to be
                self-aware, so that I don't lie to myself.

                On August 17, 1998 I did a presentation about Power at SD East in
                Washington DC. I had one slide about manipulation (in the sense
                that involves deception), and the audience really wanted to talk
                about that in detail. We spend 45 of the presentation's 90
                minutes on that one slide. At exactly that same time, President
                Clinton was talking to Ken Starr on tape about some lies he had told.

                For the next few weeks I did a lot of thinking about lies. I
                made a note in my journal to closely examine under what
                conditions I will choose to lie. Sadly, I haven't kept up with
                that idea.

                Dale

                --
                Dale Emery, Consultant
                Inspiring Leadership for Software People
                Web: http://www.dhemery.com
                Weblog: http://www.dhemery.com/cwd

                In any given set of circumstances, the proper course of action is
                determined by subsequent events. --Anonymous
              • mfeathers@mindspring.com
                ... From: Dale Emery ... I had a similar experience yesterday. I gave a talk at SPA2005 on coaching techniques and I had a slide about
                Message 7 of 13 , Apr 12, 2005
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                  -----Original Message-----
                  From: Dale Emery <dale@...>
                  >On August 17, 1998 I did a presentation about Power at SD East in
                  >Washington DC. I had one slide about manipulation (in the sense
                  >that involves deception), and the audience really wanted to talk
                  >about that in detail. We spend 45 of the presentation's 90
                  >minutes on that one slide. At exactly that same time, President
                  >Clinton was talking to Ken Starr on tape about some lies he had told.

                  >For the next few weeks I did a lot of thinking about lies. I
                  >made a note in my journal to closely examine under what
                  >conditions I will choose to lie. Sadly, I haven't kept up with
                  >that idea.

                  I had a similar experience yesterday. I gave a talk at SPA2005 on coaching techniques and I had a slide about manipulation at the end. I was prepared for a rather lively discussion about whether some of the techniques I outlined would be considered manipulative. I was surprised by the sense of the room that, well, some of them are in a dictionary sense, but so what? For what it's worth, none of them were manipulative in the sense of lying, but some were in the sense of doing something for an effect without mentioning what you think will happen. We went on to talk about just how loaded the word 'manipulation' is, and how important a coach's intentions are.

                  Michael Feathers
                  www.objectmentor.com
                • William Pietri
                  ... That s generally my feeling. There are a lot of occasions where the social contract allows manipulation as long as it s well meant. A physical trainer will
                  Message 8 of 13 , Apr 12, 2005
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                    On Tue, 2005-04-12 at 16:11 +0100, mfeathers@... wrote:
                    > I was prepared for a rather lively discussion about whether some of
                    > the techniques I outlined would be considered manipulative. I was
                    > surprised by the sense of the room that, well, some of them are in a
                    > dictionary sense, but so what?

                    That's generally my feeling. There are a lot of occasions where the
                    social contract allows manipulation as long as it's well meant. A
                    physical trainer will happily enthuse, "I know you can do it!" even
                    though we both know he may be lying. The Socratic method allows the
                    teacher to act as if he has no idea what's going on. And don't even get
                    me started on theater, where people spend months constructing big lies
                    in pursuit of big truths. But in all those contexts, some manipulation
                    is ok and some isn't.

                    There's a scene in a novel that I'm very fond of: In heaven, Abbie
                    Hoffman is, as a suicide, required to perform a million years of public
                    service. His first assignment is to teach Ayn Rand about humor, and he's
                    working on jokes. She doesn't understand why LBJ would be sitting on a
                    fence, and is outraged that Hoffman would try to persuade her that
                    snakes have ever talked. He eventually gives up on that joke, and tries
                    something simpler. The novelist moves on to another scene as Rand takes
                    umbrage at the request to respond with, "Who's there?" when she can
                    clearly see that it's Abbie Hoffman.

                    William

                    --
                    William Pietri <william@...>
                  • Kent Beck
                    I started out seeing behaviors like honesty, integrity, and accountability as utilitarian--do them because they help you write better software. I ve come to
                    Message 9 of 13 , Apr 12, 2005
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                      I started out seeing behaviors like honesty, integrity, and accountability
                      as utilitarian--do them because they help you write better software. I've
                      come to believe that I should behave with honesty, integrity, and
                      accountability because they are morally right. Better software is one of
                      many consequences of acting on principle. Resolutely doing what is right
                      safeguards me from the temptation of acting in ways that I know are morally
                      wrong because I convince myself there is greater utility in them. If/when I
                      maintain this level of moral behavior I am at peace. I don't want to lose
                      that, not even to ship on time. I don't think I have to.

                      Kent Beck
                      Three Rivers Institute

                      > -----Original Message-----
                      > From: Dale Emery [mailto:dale@...]
                      > Sent: Tuesday, April 12, 2005 5:15 AM
                      > To: extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com
                      > Subject: Re: [XP] Telling the truth vs. maniuplating (was
                      > Motivation to Complete Stories)
                      >
                      >
                      > Hi Jeff,
                      >
                      > > For me personally, I have noticed that I have a much more
                      > > difficult time being completely truthful in my communication
                      > > when I want something badly.
                      >
                      > I've been thinking about this while traveling recently.
                      >
                      > Why not lie? For one thing, I feel bad about the effect my lie
                      > has on the other person. For another, I worry about the being
                      > found out.
                      >
                      > Sometimes I lie if I think I won't feel bad about how the lie
                      > affects the other person. I might think that the negative effect
                      > on the other person is very small. Or I might not care about the
                      > other person.
                      >
                      > Sometimes I lie if I'm not worried about being found out. I
                      > might think that there's little chance of being found out. Or I
                      > might think that being found out won't have bad effects.
                      >
                      > I suspect that every time I lie, I've decided that the benefits
                      > outweigh my expectation of feeling bad or worrying.
                      >
                      > And sometimes my decision is unconscious. I lie to myself, so
                      > that I don't know that I'm lying to the other person.
                      >
                      > As far as I can tell, I'm slowly reducing all of these reasons to
                      > lie from my life. I try not to second-guess what effect my lies
                      > might have on other people. I am learning a lot about how to
                      > make my truth less hurtful. I am learning to care about people I
                      > might not have cared about before. I try to understand that even
                      > "little" breaches of honesty can kill trust. I'm trying to be
                      > self-aware, so that I don't lie to myself.
                      >
                      > On August 17, 1998 I did a presentation about Power at SD East in
                      > Washington DC. I had one slide about manipulation (in the sense
                      > that involves deception), and the audience really wanted to talk
                      > about that in detail. We spend 45 of the presentation's 90
                      > minutes on that one slide. At exactly that same time, President
                      > Clinton was talking to Ken Starr on tape about some lies he had told.
                      >
                      > For the next few weeks I did a lot of thinking about lies. I
                      > made a note in my journal to closely examine under what
                      > conditions I will choose to lie. Sadly, I haven't kept up with
                      > that idea.
                      >
                      > Dale
                      >
                      > --
                      > Dale Emery, Consultant
                      > Inspiring Leadership for Software People
                      > Web: http://www.dhemery.com
                      > Weblog: http://www.dhemery.com/cwd
                      >
                      > In any given set of circumstances, the proper course of action is
                      > determined by subsequent events. --Anonymous
                      >
                      >
                      > To Post a message, send it to: extremeprogramming@...
                      >
                      > To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to:
                      > extremeprogramming-unsubscribe@...
                      >
                      > ad-free courtesy of objectmentor.com
                      > Yahoo! Groups Links
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                    • Dale Emery
                      Hi Kent, ... I find my utilitarian view becoming stronger over time: I do these things because they serve me. Over time, I learn to extend my empathy to more
                      Message 10 of 13 , Apr 13, 2005
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                        Hi Kent,

                        > I started out seeing behaviors like honesty, integrity, and
                        > accountability as utilitarian--do them because they help you
                        > write better software. I've come to believe that I should
                        > behave with honesty, integrity, and accountability because
                        > they are morally right.

                        I find my utilitarian view becoming stronger over time: I do
                        these things because they serve me.

                        Over time, I learn to extend my empathy to more and more people.
                        I'm not sure how or why that is happening, but it's happening,
                        and I like it. And because I care about an expanding bunch of
                        people, I begin to construe my interests to include their
                        interests. If my interests include theirs, then serving their
                        interests serves my interests.

                        As far as I can tell, the more I incorporate other people's
                        interests (as defined by them) into my own, the more my
                        utilitarian view guides me to act in a way that fits common ideas
                        of moral rightness.

                        My strongest guide is the question: Does this action express who
                        I truly choose to be in this moment? When I remember to ask that
                        question, I act in accordance with my ideals.

                        Dale

                        --
                        Dale Emery, Consultant
                        Inspiring Leadership for Software People
                        Web: http://www.dhemery.com
                        Weblog: http://www.dhemery.com/cwd

                        I'm tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep.
                        That's deep enough. What do you want--an adorable pancreas?
                        --Jean Kerr
                      • William Pietri
                        ... I ve received a number of emails asking me about this book. It s Sewer, Gas, and Electric by Matt Ruff. Here s the author s own page about the book:
                        Message 11 of 13 , Apr 13, 2005
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                          On Tue, 2005-04-12 at 12:13 -0700, William Pietri wrote:
                          > There's a scene in a novel that I'm very fond of: In heaven, Abbie
                          > Hoffman is, as a suicide, required to perform a million years of
                          > public service. His first assignment is to teach Ayn Rand about
                          > humor [...]

                          I've received a number of emails asking me about this book. It's "Sewer,
                          Gas, and Electric" by Matt Ruff. Here's the author's own page about the
                          book:

                          http://home.att.net/~storytellers/sewergas.html

                          The author's sense of humor is certainly quirky, but it happily matched
                          mine. And judging by the condition of my copy, dog-eared after many
                          loans to friends, others do too.

                          William


                          --
                          William Pietri <william@...>
                        • William Pietri
                          I m not quite sure why this makes the third message in a row for me with a reference to a related book, but hopefully it s just a fit that will pass. I
                          Message 12 of 13 , Apr 13, 2005
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                            I'm not quite sure why this makes the third message in a row for me with
                            a reference to a related book, but hopefully it's just a fit that will
                            pass. I appreciate the list's indulgence meanwhile.

                            On Tue, 2005-04-12 at 23:35 -0700, Kent Beck wrote:
                            > I started out seeing behaviors like honesty, integrity, and
                            > accountability as utilitarian--do them because they help you write
                            > better software. I've come to believe that I should behave with
                            > honesty, integrity, and accountability because they are morally
                            > right.

                            For those interested in the relationship between utilitarian approaches
                            and one's moral sense, a fascinating book is "Good Natured: the Origins
                            of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals" by Frans De Waal:

                            http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0674356616?v=glance

                            He persuasively suggests that our moral sense is part of our evolved
                            inheritance. As evolution is, at least from the gene's perspective,
                            strictly utilitarian, it seems to me that a long-sighted utilitarian
                            approach and a moral approach should often converge on the same answer.

                            William


                            --
                            William Pietri <william@...>
                          • Dale Emery
                            Hi William, ... Thanks for the pointer! Dale -- Dale Emery, Consultant Inspiring Leadership for Software People Web: http://www.dhemery.com Weblog:
                            Message 13 of 13 , Apr 14, 2005
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                              Hi William,

                              > "Good Natured: the Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and
                              > Other Animals" by Frans De Waal

                              Thanks for the pointer!

                              Dale

                              --
                              Dale Emery, Consultant
                              Inspiring Leadership for Software People
                              Web: http://www.dhemery.com
                              Weblog: http://www.dhemery.com/cwd

                              It hardly seems necessary to go to all that trouble just to make
                              it easy on ourselves. --Dale Emery
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