The Business Transition Blog

A World of Mendacity

A theme of the play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is “mendacity,” an interesting word that means lies and untruths. The play reveals an intricate web of lies within a dysfunctional family and examines the discrepancy between who people pretend to be and who they actually are. The characters lie about events, relationships, illness, and the ambitions of those around them.

One character says, “What’s that smell in this room? Didn’t you notice it? Didn’t you notice the powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?” What a great line! I know I’ve been in some meetings in which that line would have described the situation perfectly!

Withholding information that is important to the other party can be just as damaging as an outright lie. Think of things like your children not telling you that they have no interest in taking over the company or you not telling your children that they aren’t capable of business leadership.

And then there are the lies we tell ourselves. “We can still make this work” even when we know the project is doomed to fail. “I think that Fred can turn things around” even when we know that Fred doesn’t have the skills to do it. “That extra piece of cake won’t hurt me…” Yeah, right!

Unfortunately:

¨ Salespeople lie to their clients. Clients lie to salespeople.

¨ Salespeople lie to their sales manager. Sales managers lie to their salespeople.

¨ Presidents lie to the board of directors and the board lies to the president.

¨ Most of us lie to ourselves.

That’s a load of odoriferous mendacity!

Apparently mendacity is a societal norm. But what a mess it creates! It causes a serious breakdown in relationships, communications and – most importantly – trust. Who can you trust if you know that you even lie to yourself?

What’s the cure for mendacity?

  1. Confront it wherever you find it. Challenge politicians to tell the truth and live up to their promises. Remind employees, managers and children that mendacity breeds mistrust and calls into question their character.
  2. Catch yourself in your own mendacity. Tell the truth. Ask others to catch you if you cross the line.
  3. Most important, be true to yourself. Shakespeare had something to say about that. Denial and wishful thinking may help you get through the day, but it’s important to stop and reflect on the lies you tell to yourself. Are they really helping your cause?

The mendacity illustrated in the play destroys the family and causes irreparable damage. We’ve seen many recent examples of mendacity destroying companies, political parties and the reputations of their executives. Let’s be honest.