A recent paper explored the effects of using truthful statements to deceive others.
The authors of the paper call this behavior paltering and define it as “the active use of truthful statements to convey a misleading impression.”
The paper, Artful Paltering: The Risks and Rewards of Using Truthful Statements to Mislead Others, says:
…we identify paltering as a distinct form of deception. Paltering differs from lying by omission (the passive omission of relevant information) and lying by commission (the active use of false statements). Our findings reveal that paltering is common in negotiations and that many negotiators prefer to palter than to lie by commission.
The paper tests the effects of paltering during business negotiations, but paltering can happen in many other contexts. Examples of paltering by public figures can be found in the news every day.
The concept of paltering is also interesting psychologically. I am going to speculate that individuals often palter to themselves concerning their own internalized autobiographies and reasons for doing many actions.
If we use our inner voices to palter to ourselves—that is use the best “truthful” description of our actions that also just happens to place those actions in their best light—then we are not living with full integrity even in the privacy of our own thoughts.
At the same time, we have to be careful about how we assess our own paltering. We might be right to use the best version of events because that really is the correct version.
The problem is there is no good standard for an individual alone to decide what is objectively right or wrong.
For example, if someone smokes pot in a state where it is illegal are they paltering by telling themselves the law is stupid so why follow it?
FIML partners will want to avoid paltering at all times but especially in the midst of a FIML query. Properly done, FIML can help with internalized paltering because this sort of subject matter lends itself well to FIML discussions.
As with all moral questions, where we draw the line is not always easy. The more tools we have the better. Awareness of paltering and its effects on others is good tool to have.