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When I arrived at my friend’s home, I gave a candy bar to her two small children, as all good “aunties” do.
They were elated; mom not so much.
From the corner of my eye, I saw her
son digging into his candy — even
though he was explicitly told by mom
to eat it after dinner.
As we got ready to head out for
a walk, he came over with chocolate
smeared on his face. Mom asked
whether he ate the candy. He
adamantly denied it. As she and I
walked, I asked her: “How do you feel
when your children lie to you?”
She quickly corrected me: “He
didn’t lie, he fibbed. A fib is a lie about
Fibs, lies, falsehoods, fudged truths,
disinformation, misleading information
— and let’s not forget a new term
trying to penetrate our vernacular —
“alternative facts.” They are terms-of-
art that seriously concern me.
It was mindboggling for me to hear
White House spokesman Sean Spicer
explain the president’s overstated
inauguration attendance numbers by
paralleling it to weather forecasting.
“There are times, like anything else,
it’s not alternative facts, it’s that there’s
sometimes you can watch two different
stations and get two different weather
reports. That doesn’t mean the station
was lying to you.”
Mr. Spicer, weather stations do
not lie or make false claims. Weather
stations make forecasts about the
weather — a future event.
A lie is a false claim. A truth is a
claim of facts. The weather becomes a
fact only after it occurs. Only then can
we definitively state the weather of that
day and make it an irrefutable fact.
A fact is a stable, real, verifiable,
objective piece of information. A fact is
considered dead and the reason why we
use the expression, “cold, hard facts.” A
fact is not dissuaded by opinion, beliefs
or temporary passions. You cannot
have “false facts,” but you can have false
claims of fact. A false statement that
claims something is a fact, is a lie.
Why does this matter to me as a risk
Our jobs as risk management
professionals are hard enough without
introducing lying into our daily
equations. We can’t let lying become
acceptable. We, as an industry, cannot
collaborate in lies and we simply cannot
We are an industry that makes daily
decisions, often life and death decisions,
on behalf of people who trust us to say
the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable
or unpleasant. The decision to buy
kidnap, ransom or terrorism coverage
is hard, often unpleasant. It requires
facing ugly facts.
We often guide our clients’ decisions
using forecasts but we genuinely try
to perfect our prophecies using facts
so that our clients can rely on them.
When we go to court defending or
prosecuting a claim, only facts must be
in our briefcases.
We must remember that our clients
often treat our predictions as real. We
must have the highest duty of care
when it comes to truth and facts. &
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is a specialist in
innovative enterprise risk management
methods and implementation techniques.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY JOANNA MAKOMASKI