I’ve learned some life lessons along the way in some interesting ways. I’m not talking about learning not to stick one’s nose into the spinning blades of a fan or that if you hit a hornet’s nest with a broom handle, they will in fact become quite cross with you. I’ve learned both of those things experientially, but one way I’ve learned a life lesson is via the X Files.
“Plausible Deniability.” I think we all find ourselves in situations where telling the truth might do more harm than good. In these cases, it is in your best interest to have an alternate explanation designed that would address what could have or could be happening, even if this is simply a description of an alternate reality. In these situations, it is not what people know, it is what they can prove. It is your job to avoid being proved to be involved.
You know what I’m talking about, those instances where a much larger human being than yourself asks you whether or not you like him. In order for plausible deniability to work well, he mustn’t have recently overheard your conversation with a close confidant that you in fact do not like him. There mustn’t have been a breach in that confidence, such that your confidant reported out to the much larger human being that you in fact do not like him. And you can’t have behaved in a manner which would lead this individual to ask this question. Now, it can still work, but the issue will become one where you’re now laboring to build back some skeptical audience.
Act and behave in ways that will allow those with whom you interact to hear your message, and not hear unintended meta messages. Now, in this case, this much larger person is clearly asking you for a reason. Since this is a question about your personal feelings, processing time is short and the tried and true, “If I heard you correctly, you asked…” won’t work to stall while you work out an answer. If you absolutely MUST process, the correct response is not “OF COURSE! Why?” The correct response is, “Why?”
The response to your question will likely give you a direction. For instance, if you genuinely don’t like this person and are met with a “You know why” this actually helpful. You do know why – you really don’t like them and have likely said so to numerous people. HOWEVER, you may well get a reasonably well thought out answer – “When I saw you the other day, you didn’t wave to me.” AH HA! This situation is easily diffused.
The caveat here is that if you receive a “You know why” when the answer would actually be more in line with “You didn’t wave to me” you may well be in trouble. “I really don’t know what you’re talking about. I have never behaved in any way that would lead you to believe that about me.” This forces some conversation – perhaps they have talked to your confidant. If so, your confidant has proved unreliable and it is now your job to cast doubt on the validity and reliability of that individual’s report. Perhaps abject denial is not in your best interest here – perhaps the best explanation is, “They clearly misunderstood. I was upset about something and said I needed to talk to you about it, which is really why I’m talking to you now.” You will definitely want to make sure you leave this person with the impression that they should not follow up with your confidant.
Our large person will now question whether the confidant is reliable – demonstrated by their clear misunderstanding over what you meant. You should let him know that you have heard from many others that your confidant has had many encounters in which he has betrayed others and warn this large person against interactions with him.
You do not necessarily wish to let someone know them to be a mole, particularly if you believe this could be useful to you at some later point. Remembering this little interchange will allow you to sculpt situation and perceptions through using this individual’s perfidy.
Plausible deniability does have its price though – it flows nicely into “Trust no one.” Particularly if you’re good at playing the plausible deniability card, you can’t ever really trust someone else. The object here is to create systems whereby interactions with others can be routinely checked off against, as described in the situation where your confidant has betrayed that confidence.
Of course, a much more simple life lesson would be to treat others correctly and not place yourself in situations where you find yourself bad mouthing others and having to apologize. It would take a lot less mental energy and certainly if your memory isn’t particularly acute, makes it less likely that you’ll run afoul of your own treachery.
Remember that honest, direct communication will generally serve you better than trying to plausibly deny various aspects. Given that most of us aren’t government spies, dedicated to assisting an alien invasion, we may well find that honesty can be the better policy.