Lying is a rotten thing to do. However, the more you do it, the less rotten it seems. Or at least that’s what a recent study about lying revealed.
The researchers, including Dan Ariely, author and Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, wondered if your brain adapted to being deceitful. To find out, the research team put participants in an fMRI machine (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to see what happened when they lied. The fMRI measures brain activity. By detecting changes in the blood flow in the brain, the team could see how lying activated different parts of the participants’ brains.
What the researchers saw was that the brain reacted strongly to the first lie, but after a few more didn’t react much at all. The researchers also saw that the magnitude of the lies grew worse over time.
“So, we start by being aware of this maybe being a dishonest act, and we’re at least aware of it. But over time, it just goes into the background, and we don’t pay attention to it,” said Ariely on an NPR Broadcast about the study.
Lying Creates a Gateway to More Lying
What we learned from the study above is that one lie alerts the brain but two, or even twenty lies don’t. That means that the first lie can be tough, but it gets easier with time. Lying is in this way becomes a gateway to more lying.
We can all agree that lying to customers is wrong. Despite this widespread agreement, companies still do, too many, in fact. From lying on emissions tests like Volkswagen to overstating efficiency performance figures like Mitsubishi, to opening bank accounts your customers didn’t want like Wells Fargo, numerous recent examples exist of brands telling customers lies. Big lies lead to small chances of being trusted.
Lying is not only bad for your customers, but it’s also bad for your employees. If your people are told to lie or even “stretch the truth,” it will be easier for them to keep lying—even internally. It creates a poor culture at the organization, which is terrible for Employee Experience. As global customer experience consultants, one thing we know for sure is that a poor Employee Experience leads to a poor Customer Experience.
Lying Creates a Negative Emotional Signature
It all comes down to a brand’s Emotional Signature®. Every company has one. The term represents the emotional engagement that a person has with a brand. The emotions one feels toward a brand manifest in all the moments of a Customer Experience, starting as early as the branding process itself to long after the interaction is complete. Emotions affect how we remember that experience, and those memories influence our behavior moving forward.
After you have been lied to, how do you feel? My guess is that none of the answers you have are positive. Moreover, you were very unlikely to trust the source that lied to you again or at least it would take a lot to earn your trust back. Why? You will remember that they lied to you and how it made you feel (insert negative emotion of your choice here).
We researched emotions about ten years ago. After sorting through millions of responses from thousands of respondents all over the world and throughout different industries, we discovered the 20 emotions that drive and destroy value. Not surprisingly, trust is one of the most important ones. If you can’t be trusted, then no one wants to do business with you.
Author and businessman Bo Bennet said:
“For every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.”
For those of us in business, the best reason to tell the truth is to maintain trust in our business relationship with customers. For without that, there cannot be any business relationship at all.
Join me on May 2nd for our free webinar, The Future Customer Experience Today. I will talking about some of the above concepts, Customer behavior, behavioral economics and the practical implementation of both.
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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX