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The RealityGap

No doubt you have experienced the situation where someone tells you something about themselves that turns out to be inaccurate. People often say what they think other folks expect them to say and to want to do what they believe those others think they should be doing. This manifests itself, for example, in the forms our responses take in answering surveys:  how many times have you seen the speaker reviews at a conference marked excellent in every category but with no comments whatsoever? How does that help anyone? Certainly there is no reason to perceive any value in such responses. What happens is that people lie to you and to themselves and do not even understand that is what they are doing.

This approach to things – saying what you think someone wants to hear – can do a lot of damage. For example, when a client tells their advisor how they handle money, in terms of their spending and savings, and the client response is not, in fact what they are doing, problems will follow. In planning, this manifests where the client does not save the amounts he or she says will be contributed for future retirement or where the client just does not know where the money goes or how much goes, even though the client has a six or seven figure income.

Now not every misstatement or exaggeration does significant harm and some may be understood as not to be counted upon. However, it is probably a better practice for us to consider our responses, particularly where they are being made to those we ask to help us, and make sure they are accurate and real. You would not tell your doctor that something bothered you if it does not or vice versa since, if you did, you would not be getting the right diagnosis and/or treatment.  Think about it –if you want help, you need to be honest with yourself and with the persons you are working with to get that help. And when you are the helper – advisor, doctor, what have you – remember the all too human inclination to color the story one way or another. 

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