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“I Don’t Tell Lies!” – How True is the Truth Told?

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A few days ago, I received a phone call from a cousin of mine who lives somewhere in America. She had this “fantastic” business idea that she was so excited to share with me. She believed her idea would be the best thing in Nigeria since the advent of cell phones. My first instinct was to tell her what I really thought. Her idea was not only backward but it showed that her impression of Nigeria was really warped.

I mean, who would import skipping ropes to sell to primary schools in Nigeria? What for? Her reason was that Nigerian children are bored and need more than computer games to stimulate their learning. Nigeria may not be the most civilized country on earth but I think we are definitely beyond that. That was not the exact business idea, but it was something along those lines.

As she chattered on about her great idea, I lost my nerve. I just could not break her heart. I bit my tongue, swallowed and told her it was a “nice” idea. I tried to discourage her though, by telling her that it might be a stressful and not so viable business in this country but she sounded too excited. I just could not burst her bubble. I told her to take her time and think about it before she takes any action. Last night she called me to say she had changed her mind because it was not such a wonderful idea after all. I am glad I did not encourage her or I might have become the enemy!

We should all tell the truth but sometimes it is difficult. Religion and morals tell us this, but in some situations it is not so easy. A Yoruba proverb says “a kii gbo buburu lenu abore”. This means an Ifa priest does not speak in the negative. Rather than tell a man that all his children and wives will die before him, an Ifa priest would say; the man would be given the gift of long life such that he would outlive many members of his family. Same message, but logic is applied.

How do you tell someone that their hair looks hideous after they have paid big money to have it made that way? You go to visit someone and she goes all out to prepare a big meal for you. How then do you tell her that the food does not taste good? How do you tell an aspiring singer that he sings of key, without being tagged a hater? As Naija people, our modus operandi is to say “I’m on my way” even when you are still at home with your toothbrush hanging out of the corner of your mouth. Yeah, that qualifies as being on your way. At least you are in the process of heading to the place. Did I hear you say “I don’t tell lies!”? Think again sweetheart.

A well-known dilemma is when the fat lady asks you whether she looks fat in her new dress. Especially when you are her husband, if you don’t want to sleep alone on the couch with no company but mosquitoes, you better tell her she looks sexy, voluptuous, chubby, healthy, thick (as in Thick Madame from Phat Girls) or anything but the word fat! That’s not really lying, or is it? As a teacher, would you ever tell your pupil’s parent that their child is dull? No! Tell them, he needs more attention or that he’s a unique student or something else but don’t condemn the poor child.

My definition of diplomacy is “masking an untruth to look like the truth” or “putting the truth in a subtle way. Some people say diplomacy is telling you to go to hell in a way that you even look forward to the trip. I am actually a very blunt person. I like to say it as it is but recently I have also learnt that it is important to consider people’s feelings. It is better to be a bearer of good news. Even when we criticize let us not bring people down. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Before you speak, think again, how true is the truth?

Photo Credit: madamenoire.com

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Yinka Ademola is an aspiring author, a PR person, wife and mother-to-be who likes to express herself by writing her thoughts and observations of all sorts, and by cooking! Passionate about transforming Nigeria, she is greatly inspired by its sights and sounds. Find more of her thoughts on Twitter @layinx.

Yinka Ademola is an aspiring author, a wife, a government employee and a soon-to-be mother. She enjoys cooking and sharing recipes. She likes to discuss issues that affect day-to-day life ,although in a lighthearted manner. One of her ultimate goals is to make Nigeria a safer and cleaner place. She firmly believes that women can excel both in the workplace and at home building. Yinka's favourite place is the beach and she enjoys travelling locally and internationally.

35 Comments

  1. Hilda

    May 2, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Eish…i do tend to patronise people because i do not want them to feel bad.

  2. Dee

    May 2, 2013 at 8:52 am

    First to comment

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      May 2, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      No, you are not. See? I was upfront with you and corrected the very obvious error you made there by telling you an honest truth. I’ve learnt something from this article 🙂

    • ikunkun

      May 2, 2013 at 11:53 pm

      Yes you are!!!!
      (in line with the theme of the feature)

  3. Flora B

    May 2, 2013 at 9:02 am

    That is why I always take everything I hear with a grain of salt especially…. hmm those compliments.Some people feel obliged to say nice things even when they know them to be untrue.And their intentions are sometimes good so the onus will always be on you to master yourself and your situation and know when you are being told a white lie.Besides,sometimes we know the truth ourselves and are just looking for some kind of validation to feel better about ourselves.

  4. mary

    May 2, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Im going to deviate from the story a little bit, u just discouraged your friend from doing something good and changing life’s in Nigerian. Her idea was not backward at all, because here in the uk we have people who go round schools and teaching children how to skip and also sell them to the kids. i can categorically say the kids here enjoy it very much both boys and girls and they mostly use it during play time. I witness this everyday because i work in a school.

    • jcsgrl

      May 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      You call yourself a teacher…go back and read. Skipping rope was not the bixz idea…just an example

    • Nomy

      May 2, 2013 at 2:06 pm

      Import skipping ropes to sell? Whether it works in the UK or not its a crazy idea. If you are importing it to distibute for free, then cool. For sale? Na Business loss be that. The schools won’t buy. I went to a Primary school where we used rubber bands to make beautiful thick skipping ropes, we also used the rubber part of bottle corks too. Primary school pupils skip comfortably it helps their minds to come up with innovative ways to make skipping ropes and of course all the other skipping qualities you have mentioned, so is importing skipping ropes for sale a good Business idea? Lai lai. That one na money down the drain!

    • slice

      May 2, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      acknowledging that skipping ropes was not the idea, but want to mention you’re thinking it won’t work cause you’re thinking of not so rich schools/pupils that can’t afford it. The woman who wants to spend 1.2million on her child’s birthday may happily buy this too

  5. Lamide

    May 2, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Nice article. …..

  6. 'Mide

    May 2, 2013 at 9:19 am

    You right about acknowledging people’s feelings. Sometimes what people really want from you is acceptance and encouragement. I am not sure those lies hurt if we agree that people are not so dumb since they will eventually come to their senses.

  7. Ifunanya

    May 2, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Yeh most times we tell the truth in a subtle way in order not to hurt anyone but honestly there are times in our lifes when we desire to hear the truth unpainted…. just the way it is. At those times only some true ones who understands can deliver.

  8. Hurperyermie

    May 2, 2013 at 9:35 am

    i hear u jare

  9. pynk

    May 2, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Choice and syntax of words are definitely important.

  10. Miss Yinx

    May 2, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Thank you Mary. My opinion is that we should not be importing something as minor as skipping ropes into Nigeria. It does not do any good for our economy.

    • slice

      May 2, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      but do you know a manufacturer that makes them in Naija? if there’s no one making something but we think it’s good for us, shouldn’t we import it?

  11. Ms. Lover Girl

    May 2, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Lovely read…

    Kindly check out my new interesting blog… misslovergirl.blogspot.com

  12. bimsal

    May 2, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Well said miss yinx, still we need diplomacy some truths are too bitter to swallow. its barby

  13. raffy

    May 2, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Beautiful article! Coming back to comment

  14. Adesh

    May 2, 2013 at 11:13 am

    In my opinion, subtility,euphemism and diplomacy are actually qualities of a wise man that seeks to live long in this country of ours. However, when you’re in dire straits, its best to be as blunt as you can be.. e.g.. As we suffer from bombings, corruption,infrastractural inadequacy, Should we say our president needs time to work on his transformation agenda after over 4years?(diplomacy) or Should we say he is a dullard who is not performing at all and needs to be replaced? (BITTER TRUTH)

    • Miss Yinx

      May 2, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      I couldn’t agree with you more Adesh

  15. Retrochic

    May 2, 2013 at 11:16 am

    am naturally a very blunt person, if u are looking for the most realistic, straight answer come to me, but i realised that a lot of pple have painted a pic of me as bad mouth, bad belle, so i gave myself brain, and chose to keep my comments to myself, even when i was asked, but only close friends i told the whole truth

  16. Cleo

    May 2, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Nice write up,I must confess its soooooooooo difficult not to tell a lie once In a while wether white,black,grey or even pink lie….most times our excuse is “I don’t want to hurt their feelings” ……but honestly,I think the little little lies have come to stay….lol…

  17. Bamz

    May 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I believe that a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall. criticism is actually futile; it is unproductive and only puts a person on the defensive. Instead we need to provide the incentive (kind words) for change. Flattery is also a big NO NO ; I try to make my praise specific & sincere. Thanks Miss Yinx for this meaningful piece

  18. Dearie

    May 2, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    I can be very blunt(some say tactless) but I read the ‘sandwich principle’ somewhere a couple of months ago and it’s been working for me. Learn the sandwich principle. First a compliment, then your critique , then a compliment.
    I’ve been labelled tactless so many times and God knows I didn’t set out to be.

  19. slice

    May 2, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    i reserve my straight talk for my close friends and family and people who appear to be sincerely seeking the truth. Otherwise, I keep my thoughts to myself. sometimes coloring critiques with compliments distracts from the truth cause some people are really good at hearing only what they want to hear and they’ll latch onto the so called compliment and ignore the request for change

  20. Lin

    May 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Well as for me I do say “if you don’t like the truth, then please don’t ask for my opinion”. The fact is that one has to know how to tell the truth. The tone of one’s voice, the manner of approach and how one tells the truth all matters when telling the truth.

  21. jayblingz

    May 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I think it makes alot of sense, coz when you hurt someones feelings, by passing an honest negative
    Comment, they usually would choose not to take the truth, rather they just tag you a hater, just not to feel bad…

  22. whocares

    May 2, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Firstly about the skipping ropes, hmm I get shit like that a lot.. even my mom wanted to import AIR FRESHER… no not the nice blade ones, but the block air fresher, you know the types that look like “drummer?” (is that what is was called?) hmm.. i had to discourage her.. pheeew! About tact, this is sooo true and something i struggle with.. I try to be diplomatic honestly I do, and I can honestly say I have improved from the blunt person I used to be but its not enough. sometimes I can be very diplomatic, especially at work (lol) but in other aspects of life, I find that I simply dont have the patience. my reaction is usually 2-fold. I either keep quiet, or when i do talk, its no holds barred.. my daily prayer is that someone doesn’t beat me up some day *sigh* lol.

    ps: the comments here have been so helpful.. I will try this sandwich technique. funny enough I think my boss does that to me (the sneaky bastard)

  23. Oyinloola

    May 2, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Nicely written! I enjoyed the write up and quite agree with Miss yinx! Adesh also makes a brilliant point with our darling Mr president who seems to me a figure head! Oops
    I meant who is a figure head!

  24. Mz Socially Awkward...

    May 2, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    There’s a method of responding truthfully but kindly that I was once taught. I believe relationship therapists refer to it as “The Sandwich Method” and basically, it just means you can be honest without being hurtful.

    Case in point – the cousin wanting to cargo skipping ropes to Nigeria
    You respond as follows – “Wow, I never thought of something like that, it’s actually a really good idea for kids in certain parts of the world, I can imagine you’ll find support with parents over here in the U.S. However, I can’t really see parents back in Lagos, having the right attitude to buying skipping ropes. You’ve done a lot of hardwork planning this and I don’t want you to lose money.”

    I’ve learnt a lot from using this method and I’m sure that even the stubbornest of ears will still acknowledge your advice is well meant when you relay it with a particular emphasis.

  25. Segun Opadeyi

    May 3, 2013 at 7:30 am

    Very good, an easy read and so on point!

  26. dimpled freak

    May 6, 2013 at 11:02 am

    @Mz Socially Awkward awesome will apply this to my life

  27. Kelechi Uhegwu

    May 6, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    …Sometimes U myt not be able 2even say d Truth or even use Diplomacy… Dependin on d individual n d circumstance… Sometimes ‘Mouth Zipping’ is just d way out… Lol…

  28. Esslims

    May 11, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Nice article Yinka. The truth sometimes is so hard to say. I once experienced it some days back.

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