Take off your moccasins

Screenshot of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn fr...

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One of my all time favorite movies is Charade, with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. In it, they have this great exchange, where Hepburn’s character is trying to determine if Grant’s character is trustworthy:

REGGIE (Hepburn): Alex, how can you tell if anyone’s lying or not?

DYLE (Grant): You can’t.

R: There must be some way.

D: There’s an old riddle about two tribes of Indians. The Whitefeet always tell the truth and the Blackfeet always lie. So one day you meet an Indian, you say, “Hey Indian, what are you, a truthful Whitefoot or a lying Blackfoot?” He says, “I’m a truthful Whitefoot.” But which is he?

R: Why couldn’t you just look at his feet?

D: Because he’s wearing moccasins.

R: Well then he’s a truthful Whitefoot, of course.

D: Why not a lying Blackfoot?

R: Which one are you?

D: A truthful Whitefoot.

Of course, you (along with Reggie) have to wonder if he is. After all, wouldn’t a lying Blackfoot say the same thing?

There’s actually a longer brain teaser (scroll down about a third of the way down the page) about lying Blackfeet and truthful Whitefeet. It involves a professor at a fork in the road trying to get to a village, and he doesn’t want to get lost, but how can he trust the answer he gets from the native in front of him?

The point is, how do you know who you can trust? And rarely are humans entirely truthful nor are there people who lie all the time, regardless of the fact that we say, “If his mouth is moving, he’s lying.” So then the questions multiply – Is he trustworthy? Is what he is saying the truth?

Can you ever really know for sure?

Are you a truthful Whitefoot or a lying Blackfoot? Take off your moccasins, please.

(I couldn’t embed video, but here’s the clip from Charade.  You can also view the movie in it’s entirety on youtube.)

2 responses to “Take off your moccasins

  1. I’ve been meaning to post a reply to this for some time, and apologize for the fact that I’ve waited until it’s buried off the front page of your site by the time I get around to it.
    This is not the first time you’ve posted this question, in various forms, and the subject has been weighing on my mind (for reasons different from yours, I’m sure) for quite some time as well.
    In fact, within a couple posts of me first starting to read here, you brought up the subject: (Shoop, Shoop).
    As coincidence would have it, today I was listening to an old edition of The Tobolowsky Files, a podcast by the most famous character actor you’ve never heard of, Stephen Tobolowsky. In Episode 16, he talks about true and lies in dating and in job hunting (well, in his case, that means auditioning.) I haven’t finished listening to the entire episode yet, but the gist so far is that in general, we are not always rewarded for being honest, even though the majority of people say that’s what they most want in a relationship. And yet, it would appear that Tobolowsky has developed a certain comfort with telling the truth. (BTW, I recommend his podcast. It’s very entertaining.)
    My full response to this post, were I to type it all out, would be well over the standard length of one of my standard full blog posts, let alone a comment on someone else’s blog, but here are a couple of quick thoughts:
    1) if the person is a psychopath, or is lying to himself/herself, then you won’t be able to tell unless you catch him/her in the facts of the lie. These people have no “tells”. However, if you pay attention to what they say, the facts will eventually confirm or deny.
    2) psychopaths and self-deceptives aside, most people have a cadence for how they tell their stories, and how they convey information. If you don’t catch on to that cadence, there’s a problem. If you catch on to the cadence and then detect a variation in the rhythm, then something has changed with them. Look into where this change in the cadence comes in, and consider whether the change is the result of a stronger connection between you, or the result of something else at play.
    3) Consistency in cadence is key, but so is consitency in content. Do the stories fit an overarching narrative? Does the timeline ring true? Where stories overlap, is the word choice similar?
    4) In a romantic relationship, how much is the person in question willing to trust you with sensitive information? With easily verifiable stories? The more transparency, the higher the trustability. The more the person is willing to trust you, in general, the more likely the person is worth trusting.
    I have always been fascinated by honesty and deception (a blog post in and of itself). I have tended to be fortunate in not generally being lied to within the context of a romantic relationship. Far more troubling for me has been when my paramour has been lying to herself. That’s another matter entirely.
    As for your last question; I checked my moccasins at the door. I have nothing to hide.

  2. Happy Anniversary!