Translating White Lies in Business

Ever notice how people say one thing when they mean something else entirely?  Sometimes we call it lying to your face.  Other times it requires some translation. Here are some common ones:

  • We pay competitive salaries.  We don’t pay any more than we have to.  No further explanation is needed.
  • I have nothing to hide.  Also, my life is an open book.  Clients must be honest with you, especially if you are representing them before the federal government.  Everyone has secrets.  Protesting innocence is meant to direct attention in a different direction.  Perhaps a more accurate expression is “They don’t know where to look.”
  • I have never broken the law.  Never is an absolute.  There are lots of laws.  You just haven’t been caught.  Yet.  In TV crime dramas they often say: “Accused but not charged.”
  • We are cooperating with the authorities.  Someone did something wrong.  They were caught.  The company is in trouble.  Sometimes it’s true.  Other times it means: “We aren’t doing any more than we have to.”  The “rogue employee” explanation often follows.  One person somehow managed to elude all the oversight they have in place.
  • He will call when he gets out of his meeting.  You need more information to get the job done and deliver the project on schedule.  It’s important to you but more work for someone else.  “He’ll call if he feels like it.” Would be more accurate.
  • The Board has determined…  If they provided proactive guidance, they wouldn’t be derided as “rubber stamp” boards.  Often, it’s a cover for senior managers to get their policies pushed through opposing opinions.
  • I’ll get back to you.  Maybe, maybe not.

What lies do you hear most often? What do they translate to? Share them below.

Have something to add to this story? Give us a shout by email, Twitter, or text/call the tipline at 202-505-8885. As always, all tips are anonymous.

Related articles