Author Topic: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)  (Read 3169 times)

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snappylt

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Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« on: December 23, 2013, 11:08:36 AM »
I am guessing ahead of time that the answer is no, it's not polite to express disbelief when one is told a supposedly true story that one has trouble believing.

Here are my first example that got me thinking: (I'll put my second example in another separate post.)

We know a very polite and friendly young man, "Adam," who grew up with our children in our old neighborhood in the big city. We still see him maybe 3 times a year.  We like him, our sons like him.

When we saw Adam recently he was telling us a fascinating story about a crime which was attempted against his family.  There was a freak accident during the crime attempt, which led to an extremely bad outcome for one of the criminals.

It was a very interesting story... but while I was listening, I found myself wondering if it really happened.  It could have happened, of course, but it was so unusual that I found myself wondering...

...so after Adam left, out of curiosity and disbelief I went online and searched Google and the big city newspaper's web site and couldn't find any news about the incident.  (The extremely bad outcome for the criminal in the story was so unusual that I'm certain it would have made the news.)

No big deal.

I'm not losing any sleep over it.

But it does leave me wondering if we were lied to.  I do not think there is any polite way to ask Adam more about the story the next time we see him, is there?  And there wasn't any polite way to have expressed skepticism while listening, was there?  (We never see Adam's parents these days or I would just ask one of them.)

(For the record, after Adam left I asked one of our sons what he thought of Adam's story.  My son said that he was glad Adam's family was OK, and then my son said, "You know, Dad, I'm kind of wondering if that really happened the way Adam said...")

TurtleDove

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Re: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2013, 11:11:44 AM »
What is your goal?  To let Adam know you think/know he is a liar? To make Adam stop lying?  You can absolutely express disbelief or call Adam out, but this is not likely to create good feelings between you.

miranova

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Re: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2013, 11:13:38 AM »
I think you can only do this during the story, not after.  But "wow, that's almost unbelievable!" might pop out of my mouth.

m2kbug

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Re: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2013, 11:38:08 AM »
I think in this situation, I would just let him tell the tale and not call him out on it.  People tend to exaggerate or add emphasis (I caught a fish this big).  Does it really matter if it was true or not?  Maybe for someone that I'm closer to or a perpetual liar, I might say something.  For example, my mother will re-invent history, and sometimes I will correct her, but much of the time it's just easier just to let her run with it and not argue with her, especially (obviously) if I don't really know since I wasn't there.  I take most everything with a grain of salt. 

As far as the story itself, if you ever talk to any of his other family members, you can ask them.  "Adam told me about that crime and the criminal.  Did he really <whatever>?  That was crazy!"  Plus in other discussion about this with Adam, if Adam's retelling the tale changes a lot, you can guess that he was embellishing.  I don't think I would go to any lengths to call him out on lying, though.

ThistleBird

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Re: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2013, 11:46:16 AM »
I think I can imagine a polite way, kind of... b/c it's true it's good not to encourage lying (if it really is lying). I see it like this: you don't say "I don't believe you" directly. Instead you use polite, non-committal words like "Wow, that's interesting/amazing" etc... but you say it in a non-impressed, neutral, maybe slightly skeptical tone. That way he likely walks away suspecting you may not have believed him, but you haven't insulted him. And at the very least he doesn't get the pay-off he wanted for his lying--impressed "oohs" and "aahs."

I'd only do this if I felt sure though, b/c it stinks to be disbelieved when telling the truth.

gen xer

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Re: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2013, 01:30:35 PM »
 I've known a few people with a tendency to....how shall we say...exaggerate.  It's relatively harmless and not something I'd want to "start" something about...but I  find it annoying nonetheelss because who wants to be thought of as a doofus who will fall for anything?

This is why I agree with Thistlebird...no need to call them out or purposely embarrass them ( because that is unkind ) but you don't have to jump on their bandwagon either.  A slightly bored, unimpressed, I've heard it all  before tone.  Those types of people want to dazzle with their escapades and the excitement they surely must have over everyone - let them wonder!


veronaz

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Re: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2013, 01:48:37 PM »
What is your goal?  To let Adam know you think/know he is a liar? To make Adam stop lying?  You can absolutely express disbelief or call Adam out, but this is not likely to create good feelings between you.

This is also my question - OP why do you need to express disbelief?  Sure, you can not believe the person (or maybe you even know the person is not telling the truth), but what is your purpose? ???

I can think of a few situations where someone (a compulsive liar) told a story (either just to me or maybe even several people) and I said "That's not true."  Being polite was not an issue.  My purpose was to stop them in their tracks from telling a lie about someone I cared about, and/or prevent others from taking that lie and running elsewhere with it.

But in your example about Adam, I'd just say "Really?", raise an eyebrow and not comment further. 

« Last Edit: December 23, 2013, 04:20:32 PM by veronaz »

Need to Change

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Re: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2013, 03:19:40 PM »
Based on the facts in the OP, I'd be inclined to leave the matter alone ... unless:

--  The fibs injure another person's reputation, or hurt others in any way, or

--  The story is hateful (e.g., bigoted) in some way, or

--  The storyteller's always been known for scrupulous honesty and attention to detail, in which case I may be concerned about the person's well-being.

As for what I'd do about any of the above, well, I must cop out with, "It depends."

sweetonsno

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Re: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2013, 04:04:29 PM »
I agree with everyone who has posted thus far.

To answer your first question, no, there is no way to express disbelief after the fact. However, I do think you can in the moment, but not in the "I think you're lying" kind of way. When something extraordinary happens, it's pretty normal to say thing like "Really?!?" or "What?! No way!" It is an expression of disbelief, but doesn't sound like an accusation. My friends who work in customer service have some pretty crazy stories about bad customer behavior.

I also want to echo previous posters who want to know your motivation, as it will affect the way you respond, if you do. I also wonder about his. Do you think he was lying for malicious reasons, or do you think he was just trying to tell a story to entertain? Think about how many jokes start out with a story about an aunt or something. Think about Grandpa who had to walk to school in the snow... uphill both ways… pulling the school bus.

Surianne

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Re: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2013, 06:05:15 PM »
I agree with everyone who has posted thus far.

To answer your first question, no, there is no way to express disbelief after the fact. However, I do think you can in the moment, but not in the "I think you're lying" kind of way. When something extraordinary happens, it's pretty normal to say thing like "Really?!?" or "What?! No way!" It is an expression of disbelief, but doesn't sound like an accusation. My friends who work in customer service have some pretty crazy stories about bad customer behavior.

I also want to echo previous posters who want to know your motivation, as it will affect the way you respond, if you do. I also wonder about his. Do you think he was lying for malicious reasons, or do you think he was just trying to tell a story to entertain? Think about how many jokes start out with a story about an aunt or something. Think about Grandpa who had to walk to school in the snow... uphill both ways… pulling the school bus.

I agree with all of thise.  And I wouldn't worry about it after the fact, unless there was a reason you think the story could hurt someone (e.g. false health information, malicious gossip).

Dindrane

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Re: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2013, 11:51:39 PM »
I agree that it depends on why you feel the need to express disbelief.

Personally, the only times I would ever bother were if an untrue story would cause material harm to someone. I might express less interest in a story if I know the storyteller is inclined to exaggerate, but I still probably wouldn't call that person out unless some harm would come from my staying silent.

Basically, I can't see that it would do a relationship any favors to call someone a liar (or even hint that you think they may be lying). I wouldn't do that without good reason, because most relationships wouldn't survive such an accusation intact.


NyaChan

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Re: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2013, 11:56:24 PM »
I think there is a way to express disbelief after the fact some times.  For example, "You know your story was so interesting/sounded so familiar/really made me think, I tried to look it up but couldn't find any mention of it online.  Do you know where I could find it?"  But that only works when the story isn't a personal one because otherwise it sounds a bit creepy.

cicero

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Re: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2013, 11:57:51 PM »
What is your goal?  To let Adam know you think/know he is a liar? To make Adam stop lying?  You can absolutely express disbelief or call Adam out, but this is not likely to create good feelings between you.
That's what I am wondering. Besides, while he may have overdramatized a bit, the fact that you couldn't find the details online doesn't mean that it didn't happen.


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PlainJane

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Re: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2013, 08:24:19 AM »
In answer to your question, I agree, there really isn't a way to express your disbelief to Adam.

I don't know the ages of your sons, but to a non-adult child who witnessed the story-telling, I would certainly say something along the lines of, "Adam tells a good story but I don't know how truthful he is."

I would really tend to distrust someone who is polite and charming and (probably) lies with such ease.

gen xer

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Re: Is there a polite way to express disbelief? (first example)
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2013, 08:49:19 AM »
 What Plain Jane said - I have two young daughters and I have told them not to believe everything they hear because there are lots of people out there who like to exaggerate for the sake of a good story....but I have also told them that they don't need to contradict people unless it is for a really good reason ( like stopping malicious gossip in its tracks ).