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Is it ever okay to lie?

01 October 2013


Gwyneth Paltrow curates a weekly online site called Goop. (Ruby has had cause to refer to it before.) In August, just before the site and Gwyneth took a break for the summer holidays, she revealed she  was confronting The Truth, admitting that she’s only “just starting to get honest”, and that “it took a lot of living, and the culmination of much suffering, and turning 40 nearly a year ago,” to make her start forcing her own hand.

Gwyneth has been criticised for revealing too much at times. However, if there is one space that demands honesty, it’s online. The environment has to be real. It has to be authentic. It’s where relationships are built and to build them you need trust.

Lies don’t gel well with trust. So Ruby sought the thoughts of Australian online publisher Jane Waterhouse (The Hoopla and Birdee) as well as Birdee editor Hayley Gleeson on the value of truth.

Jane was quick to point out that authenticity has to come at every level in the world of online, and in her experience truth matters.

“I worked with a person who was forging my signature and taking money out of the company,” reveals Jane.

“This employee told me to my face she hadn’t done it. That’s pathological. But then there are the fear-based protection lies which often aren’t even about self-protection but about protecting someone else. They are the moral conundrums we all run across in life. In the end, why lie when the truth will do,” finishes Jane.

“I’m going to get a bit soulful here,” admits Birdee editor Hayley, “but I think you feel good within yourself when you’re honest and true to yourself. You feel better when you are open about what you are and what you’re not. For me, and I won’t speak for anyone else, but I encourage honesty in me because I think it encourages honesty in others.”

The things that inspire young women

Hayley believes young women are looking for “role models who are doing their thing confidently but are honest and authentic at the same time. They want people who are themselves and stay true to themselves no matter what life throws at them. That’s what inspires us.”


According to Harvard Business ReviewOctober 2013 article "Be Yourself, but Carefully", there're times to share and times not to share. As HBR points out:

"A rise in collaborative workplaces and dynamic teams over recent years has heightened the demand for 'authenticity' and 'instant intimacy,' and managers are supposed to set an example. But sharing thoughts, feelings, and experiences at work can backfire if it’s hastily conceived, poorly timed, or inconsistent with cultural or organizational norms. Getting it right can be challenging for leaders at any stage of their careers. The authors draw on four decades’ worth of research in social and organizational psychology to look at common mistakes executives make when they’re trying to be authentic and to offer a five-step plan for moving toward more-effective self-disclosure.

1. Build a foundation of self-knowledge. The best approach is to solicit honest feedback from coworkers and follow it up with coaching.

2. Consider relevance to the task. Before sharing personal information, ask yourself if it’s germane to the situation.

3. Keep revelations genuine. Making up or exaggerating stories is easily discovered and can damage credibility.

4. Understand the organizational and cultural context. Some societies are more inclined than others to disclose personal information.

5. Delay or avoid very personal disclosures. First take note of how open others are.

The authors include a tool to help you assess when—and when not—to share."



  • Sarah Schnabel

    Sarah Schnabel 6 years ago

    Online is the perfect place to finesse the truth- taking off its sharper edges- so long as you are consistent. Too much truth can be inconsistent and inconvenient...and boring. It's all about degree. I vote for more mystique online- and less confession Gwyneth

  • Louise Upton

    Louise Upton 6 years ago

    Jane Caro, author, marketing professional, etc, etc, did an interview with on youth marketing that I think says a lot of very sensible, simple things about reaching people and what works: "We’re trying to be like them [young people] instead of understanding that they are human beings who happen to be younger than us, and the same emotions that move us, move them. And they, like everyone else, respond better to honesty and integrity than they do to obvious, creepy manipulation."