How to avoid problems … and save the world – Part 1

January 2, 2012 at 9:22 am Leave a comment

Based on one of the most

important talks you’ll

ever hear


Author of How to Avoid Armageddon

Available through Amazon

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and thank you for coming to listen to me.
How to avoid problems and how you can solve problems when they arise … and how to save the world! Yeah, yeah! This might all sound very presumptuous. But in the course of this talk, you’re going to get answers. Answers that deep down you probably already know. But they’ve simply been buried, forgotten, ignored … and need to be brought to light. And by the time this talk is over everyone here this evening will have the key to bettering our lives … and the world, for that matter.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, let’s take an example from real life. I’ve changed the details a little to avoid any embarrassing identification. Anyway, a woman applies for a job as the assistant manager of a small, family-owned hotel in a seaside resort. The owner needs an assistant manager because his wife, who used to help him run the hotel, has become chronically ill. The woman who has come for a job interview is very pleasant, youngish, nice-looking, well groomed. She tells the hotel owner that she had been assistant manager at a five-star hotel in the French Riviera. Wow! The owner asks the woman a few questions about the name of the hotel where she had worked, the number of rooms, size of staff, prices and the exact nature of her duties. But some of the woman’s answers just don’t make sense. She’s vague about the duties. Also, while the staff ratio in his hotel is one worker for every six guests, she stammered a ratio of one to twelve, which seems very unlikely for a five-star hotel anywhere. Also, she has no diplomas or degrees in book-keeping or accountancy, hotel administration or any kind of management; not even cooking. And she has no letters of recommendation. He’s about to say he’s sorry but he can’t hire her, but she cuts him short and says, “I always give 150% of myself wherever I work. And I learn very quickly. I will be an asset to your hotel.” She says this with a smile that looks sincere and full of respect and compassion. Boom – all the owner’s experience and common sense is dulled and he ignores all his well-founded doubts about her and takes her on as his assistant manager.

Well very soon it turns out to be a disaster. After four days, there aren’t enough supplies to prepare meals; not enough linen to make the beds, kitchen and dining room staff are very unhappy with her bossiness and her obvious incompetence. And never have there been so many complaints from the guests. Before the week is over, she is looking for another job and the hotel owner still needs an assistant manager.

Now in this story we have examples of different forms of lying. Firstly there was the woman’s false claim about having been the assistant manager in a five-star hotel. And such lies are usually exposed sooner or later. And that results in a loss of credibility, frustration, unpleasantness and eventually total rejection. The other example of lying in this story is the wishful thinking of the hotel owner. The woman who applied for a job was so pleasant that he lied to himself about her suitability and in hiring her, he lowered the standard and reputation of his hotel and needed to deal with dissatisfied guests.

And here in a nutshell, is the answer to our question – how to avoid and overcome our problems. Don’t lie to others! Don’t lie to yourself! And another pointer that would have helped the hotel owner: don’t be taken in by another person’s dubious statements. Especially when what is said is clearly unlikely.
The keyword is truthfulness. Being truthful in our dealings with others and being truthful to ourselves. And also being alert to untruthfulness in others. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the answer to our question – how to overcome our problems. Okay, so, we have finished our talk … yeah, we’ve finished. And we can all go home now. Or if you like we can have a party.

But wait a minute – before we all rush out of here or get ready to do a hora, or salsa or a waltz, we need to know that there’s a lot more to the concept of truthfulness. It’s actually a fairly big subject. And we need to acknowledge that just about everyone, from time to time does indulge in some form of untruthfulness.

You see, apart … from always telling the truth in the sense of being honest about what we’re saying, truthfulness also means not expressing half-truths or indulging in selective omission. For instance, let’s say that I’m going to sell my car to someone. The car had a tune-up a few days ago and seems to be running just fine. But the garage mechanic had told me that the transmission is badly worn-out and might break down at any moment. Now, if tell the prospective buyer that my car is in excellent working order, that might be part of the truth at this moment. But by not mentioning the worn-out gear box, I am indulging in a half-truth. True, the buyer could have the car checked by a garage before he buys, but I’m still being devious by not telling the whole truth up front. And what if the buyer feels that I have the kind of face that he can trust, and that he doesn’t need to have the car tested by an authorized garage? So, okay, I’ll make some money by selling a car that might break down at any moment. I’m making money. That’s what counts, no? Yeah, but I will have compromised on my integrity.

A lot of people might not think that’s not important – when making money is concerned. But, I might also have stirred up a hornet’s nest in the form of a very angry buyer, and I might find myself needing to spend a lot of money on legal fees and time in unpleasant court hearings. All unnecessary had I simply told the truth. I could have sold the car eventually, but at a lower price or paid to have the transmission repaired and then sold the car at its market value. The point is that by indulging in half-truth, I was not being truthful and I opened myself up to the possibility of some time-consuming trouble. Who needs it? Also, I had behaved unethically and dishonorably. In fact I had become a bit of a scumbag.

There are other ways that we lie. For instance we often lie to ourselves. One way is through wishful thinking. Like if I have toothache and I tell myself that the pain will pass and my teeth will be okay. I don’t need to go to a dentist. Now, that’s wishful thinking! And what an expensive, painful form of lying to myself this has been for me over the years!

Another way that we lie to ourselves is when we cling rigidly to old ways and ideas, no matter what happens or what new information emerges. Many folks automatically block themselves off to anything that might not tally with their perception of things … it’s called denial. These are tendencies that can lead to families breaking up; businesses crash; people get unnecessarily sick because they rejected advice on healthy living, or ignored bodily danger signs and left medical attention too late. On a larger scale, national economies have spiraled out of control; governments have fallen; there have been terrible wars because of the stubbornness of people in charge, who refused to even listen to any new ideas and developments. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that every old idea or way is necessarily faulty and must be changed. Of course not. But whenever we automatically close ourselves off to anything new or different, or anything that doesn’t exactly tally with our current perception, we should check to see whether we are really facing facts with complete honesty. Because the consequences of not doing so, can be pretty grim to say the least.

Being truthful also means refraining from saying things that we are not absolutely sure of, and if we do say or claim things that we are not quite sure of, we should make it clear that we either heard or read such and such, or that in our opinion, maybe such and such is the case. There are factual issues and there are value judgments.

Many years ago a controversial issue was the fluoridation of water. Do you remember? It had to do with prevention of tooth decay in younger people. I had read a few articles in health magazines that claimed that the serious dangers to general health caused by fluoridation of water far outweighed any possible dental benefits. So I became a vociferous, really vociferous activist against fluoridation in Jerusalem’s water system. One day the head of the Government Health Ministry’s Dental Health Department, Dr Kelman, invited me to his office. After a short discussion with him it was obvious that I really didn’t know what I was talking about. While I was in his office, Dr. Kelman said that he had a large collection of books and scientific papers on the subject – for and against fluoridation, and he invited me to read the material. And ask questions. Well, I did just that. For about two or three weeks I sat in a room next to his office and tried to study the material on fluoridation. I had majored in science studies at high school, but it wasn’t nearly enough to enable me to fully understand the issues involved. But I quickly concluded that I couldn’t know really determine that fluoridation was hazardous to health. Although from all my reading, I did get the feeling that the miniscule quantities of fluoride added to the municipality’s water system, posed no danger to general public health. I couldn’t say for sure. But I did come to a personal conclusion, weighing the pros and cons according to a scale of likelihood ranging from probable, to possible, to unlikely and surely not, that my opposition to fluoridation was unjustified.

Incidentally, two areas that open us to untruths are gossip and generalizations. About gossip, it’s not for me to say that we shouldn’t gossip. After all, everyone loves gossip. No? And most of us indulge in it. However, this talk is about truthfulness, and gossip can very easily stray into the realm of unfounded fabrication. And that is something wrongful. Especially if it’s malicious.

Another area that can lead us away from truthfulness is when we generalize about something. Like saying that “all politicians are liars and cheats.” Oh yes? You know all the politicians? Some of them might be liars. Indeed, quite a few have been proven to be liars and cheats in a court of law as well as by their statements and actions over the years. But that doesn’t mean that all politicians are liars and cheats. And if we say that all politicians are liars, that possibly makes us liars ourselves.

Truthfulness also means being able to admit when I am wrong. No matter what the issue, If I suddenly realize that I had indeed, done something wrong, or said something I shouldn’t have said, or made any kind of mistake – if there is a discussion on it, I should be able to admit: “Yes, I was wrong!”

Now, as we indicated earlier, truthfulness should be complemented by yet another important aspect and that is how we receive … how we choose to understand … what others say. We need the ability to sense in others, whether what they are saying is factually valid, or maybe questionable, or unlikely or downright false. We should be able to consider the credibility of things even when what is said or claimed, might initially appeal to our political, religious or ideological sentiments. We should always be able to sense when something might seem glib, or contrived or just doesn’t make sense, and we should have the ability and the integrity to question or reject it. And it doesn’t matter if it’s our best friend, favorite singer or politician, or our parents.

Although if we do catch our parents not telling the truth, we should temper our reactions to them with due consideration. Like: I’m sorry to ask, Dad, but are you sure that what you’re saying is really so? Actually this is a good response in most cases when we feel someone is lying to us. Because when we blatantly or indignantly challenge someone’s honesty, they will probably become very defensive and reject our question and paradoxically, even see us as being in the wrong for daring to question them. And if that happens we will have lost an opportunity to set the record straight and in fact, lost the opportunity to plant the seed of the importance of truthfulness in the other person’s mind.

Incidentally, when we speak about truthfulness, we’re not necessarily talking about “truth,” which while connected, is not quite the same as truthfulness and we don’t have to go into any abstruse philosophical theories about the full meaning of the word “truth” – which granted can be a fascinating subject, if one has the time and inclination. But I do want to say that the often repeated phrase that everyone has his own truth, actually mangles the meaning of the word “truth”. What everyone has in actual fact, is his or her own notion of what one might think is the truth about something, but that notion, all too often lacks pertinent facts and might include half-truths and quite a bit of wishful thinking. And no matter how deeply felt, it is often – not always, but often – just a notion. Not necessarily the truth.

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Entry filed under: dangeous lies and halftruths, How to avoid Armageddon, In order to survive, Religion and belief, Solutions for Palestine. Tags: , , , , , , , .

TALKS BY RALPH DOBRIN How to solve your problems … and save the world – Part 2

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