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Falsehoods which Are Still Quite Useful

Falsehoods which Are Still Quite Useful

We’ve turned into a society which debunks everything it can. There are web sites which debunk the viewpoints and statements accredited to some people. And we tend to point out errors in an actual quote. (I’m not including here those who believe we never landed on the moon because the planted flag wasn’t “waving”—there is no air on the moon, after all.)

Thus, we think we’re “smarter” than our predecessors because people have turned the practice of exposing falsehoods into an art form. But one of my favorite phrases is “ben trovato” which means something is worthwhile even if not true. Or: If it’s not true, it should be! The origins are in 16th Century Italy.

There probably was no cherry tree and George Washington surely had to lie in his lifetime. But would it be nice, ben trovato, if politicians stopped lying to us. Remember “left brain/right brain” thinking? (I knew the guy who popularized it, Ned Hermann.) it was thoroughly debunked. But isn’t it important that we try to improve both our intellectual and emotional intelligence?

The Chevrolet Nova sold very well in Latin American markets; General Motors did not need to rename the car. While no va does mean “it doesn’t go” in Spanish, nova was easily understood to mean “new.” Yet we use this as an example to be sensitive to other cultures and languages, which is good advice.

It is not illegal in the US to shout “fire” in a crowded theater. Although this is often given as an example of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment, it is not now nor has it ever been the law of the land. But it’s still a very good idea NOT to shout “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire. (Nor should you shout “theater” during a fire!)

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

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