Mike Rowe has described the amazing honesty of a Girl Scout he knows who was selling cookies. Children are not nearly as good at lying as grownups are. And we can learn from that.
Here’s the Facebook video in which Rowe reads the amazing email that a Girl Scout named Charlotte McCord sent to a potential customer.
The best part of this is her description and rating of the types of cookies. For example, “The Samoa has amazing flavor — I give it a 9.” But “The Toffee-tastic is a bleak, flavorless, gluten-free wasteland. I’m telling you, it’s as flavorless as dirt.”
This video and letter are fun because you never hear salespeople talk like this. Nobody told young Charlotte that you’re not supposed to be honest about the products. That honesty is charming. It makes the products she likes sound much better, because you know she’s being honest about those, too.
So, when do we learn to lie and bullshit?
Let’s admit it. Children lie. But they’re amateurs at it.
Are children are naturals at telling the truth? Do they only learn to lie from adults? I don’t know. But they definitely lie. Ask anyone who’s seen the their kid, chocolate icing all over their face, saying, “I don’t know what happened to the cake.” Of course they lie.
But like everything else children do, they start out pretty bad at it, then they learn.
We tell our children that lying is worse than any other sin. It’s not true, of course — I’d rather the kid lie than stab somebody — but there’s a reason we tell them that. It’s because we, as parents, would rather know what is actually going on. Once you tolerate lying, you don’t have an accurate bead on reality. At that point, the parenting is out of control. Parenting is supposed to be reality-based.
It’s pretty easy to tell if a young child is lying. You catch them, and you explain how lying is wrong. This is so that when they are teenagers, and much better at lying, that you have established that you won’t tolerate it, and that your relationship is based on truth. If you actually have a trusting relationship and don’t lie to your kids, this often actually works.
Learning (and unlearning) to bullshit
Bullshitting is a skill that adolescents and young adults learn to get by. If you become really good at it, you probably go into marketing or management. I don’t know if there is a college course anywhere on the topic, but it’s an unspoken element of any training — in school or on the job — in how to get by at work. If successful people do it, and you want to be successful, you do it, too.
The problem is that you are competing with others at a skill they probably do better than you.
I want you to tap your inner Charlotte. I want you to remember what it felt like to tell the truth, and how people respond positively to it.
You are not a cute little girl — you can’t quite pull of what Charlotte did. But as a grown person, you can certainly try to make the connection that she made with her customers. Your honesty, deployed in a balanced way (as Charlotte did), will endear people to you. It’s worth the effort to remember that, the next time you need to share something that’s not completely sweet and pleasant.
Thank you for inspiring us, Charlotte.
If you want to buy some cookies from Charlotte, her cookie web site is here (and by now, with the popularity of this video, she’s probably become the biggest cookie distributor in the country).