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At 08:13 PM 7/10/00 EDT, Sorsah wrote:
>To be sincere is to be real. To be genuine. To be honest. And
>even...to be vulnerable. No easy task! Furthermore, sincerity
>begins with something that cannot be faked -- honesty with
October 11, 2000; Subject: [efiwebheads] Honesty and Lying
1) I would regularly have students promising that they would come to class tomorrow, but not come. When I saw them next time they would say sorry and promise to come to class the next day, but they would not come.
A Vietnamese Australian friend of mine told me that in this situation the student says he will promise to come to class, even thugh he knows that he won't because he doesn't want to 'lose face'. (lose respect or feel embarrassed) He doesn't want to admit to me that he cannot come to class.
2) Sometimes students from Asian cultures would say they were quite happy with the classes but would not come very often. In this case the Asian student is not able to tell me the truth because he or she would be afraid of insulting me if they told me they were unhappy with the classes.
I want to know in these cases are the students being honest? Are they lying to me? Is it OK to lie to me because their culture tells them it's OK to lie?
What do you think? Are there situations when your culture says it's OK not to tell the truth? Do you think it's OK to lie?
From Ying Lan
11 October, 2000
When I was young, my mother asked me "Am I beautiful in my new dress?"
I always answered truthfully. "No, It looks terrible!"
She was angry.. and said "Can you just say nice words to me? Don't be so blunt with the truth."
I can tell you another story. This happened when I was in junior high school. One day, my teacher was angry about why all the students had written the same wrong answer on a test. I stood up and told her... "Because you taught us the wrong answer in class."
She did not believe my words, and we argued this issue in class until we became purple in the face.
After that, I got a lesson...'Don't point out someone's faults in public!"
Don't let anyone down!!
Basically, to be honest is a good Virtue.
Don't lie to me.
|From Maggi, 11
Hi everyone :-
I think honesty is very important, and I find it difficult to lie - even about little things. But I also know from teaching students from other cultures that they sometimes they 'lie', rather than lose face.
And Ying Lan wrote
To be a liar is not a part of Asian culture, but to be polite it is .In case, they say something with smile. They just try to comfort you. It is difficult to distinguish what is true or not.
I think we have a cultural difference of what lying is. For Michael it is lying when Asian students say they will come to class and don't. For them it is polite to do so that Michael won't be disappointed and think he is the reason they are not coming. And his Asian students are not aware that they may have offended Michael more by not telling him the truth.
From the examples Ying gave it took her time to learn this too. Just as it takes my German students (the German language has a polite you form and an informal you form) a very long time to learn how to be polite in English. They are very direct and do not take it personally but sometimes I feel like I have been stabbed with a knife. It has taken many years for me to let it go over my head.
Then there is the problem of learning the physical cues because Asians generally do not like to say no to someone. It must take time to learn when a yes is a yes and when a yes is a no.
Ying said they smile Michael so maybe you have to watch the face and not listen to the words.
I know when my students don't come to class they are busy at work or have other more important things to do and I don't take it personally. The assessments they fill out at the end of the course tell me I am doing a good job and when they come back for another class I must be doing something right. :-) ....
I forgot one thing because Michael asked if it is ok to lie if your culture says it is.
I think the way the Asians do it is a way of being polite and not really saying that lying is ok. The same goes in ours with white lies. This is when you don't really tell the truth because you know it will hurt someone but you say it in such a way that you are not really lying.
I know my German students go nuts with phrases in English like, well, I'd really rather you didn't instead of just saying no. Or instead of saying that's a bad idea we say that isn't a very good idea. They find this sort of thing wishy washy and confusing but it makes native speakers aggressive when they are direct.
Sometimes it pays to put sweet icing on what you say. This is why cultural awareness is a part of my lessons, in other cultures besides just English speaking ones, because my students are business people.
11 October 2000
Well, in Mexico it happens this way:
We've also got white lies. For example, in my class there's a bald girl who uses a wig. One day some students were talking about that and laughing at her (obviously she was not present). Then somebody told her people were speaking behind her back, and she asked me and a group of friends what those students had said.
We didn't want to offend her so we said they were just talking about the colour of her hair. I guess she knew what the actual thing was about, but nobody said anything else about it.
There are many different ways to deal with saying the truth, and as all of you have said, it depends on the cultural background of each person.
I think you can be polite and tell the truth at the same time. The tone of voice, the facial expression, and the words you use are very important, and you can be as direct as you want as long as you bear in mind the importance of these three things.
> I, as a Westerner, agree with this. I think honesty is very
> I find it difficult to lie - even about little things. But I also know
> from teaching students from other cultures that they sometimes they 'lie',
> rather than lose face. For example, ....
Sometimes people lie. That's due to one's own personality. However, sometimes it's based on politeness and in this case, decoding the hidden meaning can be a bit complicated and even then, there are possibilities of misunderstanding. Despite that kind of drawback, we've got to adopt that 'politeness' strategy, and the use of 'politeness' seems to be universal.
Some years of ago, I came across a book regarding face. According to that book,
'In order to reduce the possibility of damage to the hearer's face and to the speaker's own face, he or she may adopt certain strategies. The choice of strategy will be made on the basis of the speaker's assessment of the size of the FTA (face- threatening acts). The speaker can calculate the size of the FTA on the basis of the parameters of Power (P), Distance (D) and rating of imposition (R). '
People often mean much more than what they say actually. Several meanings are layered. As above, power, social distance and the circumstances seem to influence the choice of speaker's strategy.
Culture is one of the factors determining one's persona. However, in the case of communication, or dynamic interaction between two parties, this looks like a case of context rather than one of cultural-sensitivity.
However, it seems there is some sort of cultural influence regarding politeness. In the case of Korean and Japanese, grammatical forms are changed regarding hearer's status. For example, the Korean verb 'ga-da' means 'go' in English. We simply say 'ga-da' for same-status interchanges, but we are expected to say 'ga-si-da' for deferential ones. This means, when we refer to someone higher or older than us, we are recommended to insert a suffix or other grammatical form like 'si' in the middle of or at the end of the word appropriately. I use the term 'recommended' instead of 'have to' or 'must', because there are people breaking the norm, and the language is evolving.
Therefore, a Korean learner sometimes fails to adopt 'indirectness' when he or she speaks English, due to his or her linguistic background. We are not rude, just not familiar with indirectness. Myself, I also used to forget to say 'would you mind~' or 'I am wondering~' stuff from time to time, and this kind of error may happen again.
One more thing, Antonio wrote
>I think you can be polite and say the truth at the
>same time, the tone of voice, the facial expression,
>and the words you use are very important, ....
Paralinguistic features like facial expression and gesture can be clues to hidden meaning. Also, there is 'face' on the net as well as in everyday conversation, offline. In the case of online communication such as with this list, there are no visual and aural clues. We just negotiate the meaning of the text. Thus, more attention is required to prevent any conflicts or misunderstanding. Otherwise, we can hurt each other^^.
PS. I love emoticons like ^^, :-), because they work similar to facial expressions in offline conversation. However, I try not to overuse them when I talk to list members because it can be too informal.
(2), 13 October, 2000, responding to Maggi ...
So when I said "I, as a Westerner, .....think honesty is very important, and I find it difficult to lie - even about little things" I was assuming my point of view was typical of all Westerners. But as Maggi shows here, there are many approaches to this question within Western culture. So I should have said, "I, as an Australian, ......"!
>Ying said they smile Michael so maybe you have to watch the face
>listen to the words.
Good advice Maggi. I'll watch for the smile!
When I was young, my mother asked me, "Am I beautiful in my new dress?"
I always answered truthfully. "No, It looks terrible!"
She was angry, and said "Can you just say nice words to me? Don't be so blunt with the truth."
Lying is sometimes useful to make the other person feel happy. Everyone needs to know how to be honest without making the other person fall down.
A Little Story about the truth.....
I have a good friend who's a doctor. He recently had a major heart operation and he said when he saw his doctor after the operation all he wanted was for the doctor to say 'everything will be alright." He didn't want the truth; he just wanted to hear something that would make him feel better!
Before the operation my friend said he always told his patients the truth, but now he thinks he might just say what his patients want to hear!
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