“Just because something isn’t a lie does not mean that it isn’t deceptive. A liar knows that he is a liar, but one who speaks mere portions of truth in order to deceive is a craftsman of destruction.”
― Criss Jami
I remember it vividly. I’m inside the synagogue near the fire exit which only opens from the inside. On the other side of this fire exit exists a metal ramp that makes a huge amount of noise when being run on. Young children are running up and down this ramp making a huge amount of noise. Eventually one of them starts knocking on the door.
“Let me in,” says one of the children
“The door is locked” responds the congregant inside closest to the door.
“Can you please unlock it for me?” replies the child.
“I don’t have a key” the congregant responds.
The child walks away.
We all start laughing. The door did not need a key to be opened.
The congregant gave truthful statements. Purposely misleading statements, but truthful nonetheless.
The child took the bait. He believed that a key was needed and that the person didn’t have the key.
I am bringing this story to illustrate an important point.
There are many toxic people out there who resort to different forms of manipulation. Many resort to outright lies, but a few extremely precise individuals use their words as skillfully as a surgeon uses his or her knife.
They purposely keep to the truth, adding zero falsehoods into their words, yet they purposely omit key facts. They do this in an attempt to get you to believe what they want you to believe whilst making sure they cannot be accused of lying.
This congregant said the truth. He didn’t have a key. It was Shabbos and we lived in an area where we weren’t able to carry anything, let alone keys. But his response of “I don’t have a key” was done purposely to imply that he needed a key to open the door, and he didn’t have the key that he needed. This was a false implication.
As I started to draft this article about how toxic people use this manipulation technique it became clear to me that the top violator of this type of manipulation is the news media. (To be clear, both the left wing and right wing media are extremely guilty of this). Libel laws require that they report the truth. But that doesn’t mean they need to include all the facts.
Let’s use the following case as an example: Kayla Rolland was a Caucasian six-year-old girl who was shot to death in school by a six-year-old African-American classmate. The police and courts ruled that the shooter was too young to fully understand his actions and therefore, could not charge him with any crime.
Now imagine if the news wrote the following headline or tweet: Black male fatally shoots six- year-old white girl inside a school. Police decline to arrest the suspect despite clear evidence that he committed the shooting.
That would be a truthful statement, but it would also be extremely deceiving.
Whilst we can’t stop others from being intentionally deceiving, we can work on our antennas to pick up on misleading information. First, we need to always realize that headlines and tweets are small versions of larger stories. There is always more underneath the surface.
We also need to ask ourselves if the answer actually answers our question. Does “I don’t have a key” really answer the question of “Can you please open the door?” or can it be a random statement that has no correlation?”
Also, always be wary of negative statements. Phrases such as “The Mayor doesn’t rule out the possibility…” or “My wife has never denied ….” is a great way of warping what was actually said.
It could be reported that I’ve never denied being an accomplice to a bank robbery, but then again, I’ve never been asked if I’ve ever been an accomplice to a bank robbery.
Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice specializing in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more.
To speak with Yisroel about speaking at a child safety event or to discuss a personal case, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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