One startup exec’s slightly uncomfortable project: No more lies, to anyone, about anything

The next time you see this guy talking, he won't be telling a fib.
The next time you see this guy talking, he won't be telling a fib.

If you run into Keith Frankel, think twice before asking what he thinks of your edgy new haircut. Unless you really, really want to know the answer.

Frankel, a product design executive at Boston education software startup Firecracker, decided over the holidays to stop telling lies to anyone, about anything, big or small. And he plans to blog about how the experiment affects his personal relationships.

Frankel, who previously worked for HubSpot and MTV, said his new commitment to honesty didn’t come after some big personal crisis. He also doesn’t think he lied any more than the next person. But he was a bit disturbed by how good he became at fudging the truth.

“We lie with just an absurd, astounding frequency,” Frankel said. “I just felt like I was a more effective, persuasive liar when I would do it.”

There are a few ground rules. Frankel said he isn’t spouting off everything that comes to mind or using his truth-telling commitment as an excuse to be a jerk.

“I can just decline to answer anything I want,” he said. “I don’t have to tell you a bunch of things that will hurt your feelings. There’s still a place for tact.”

But the recurring stream of little fibs and white lies that tend to lubricate a lot of personal and professional conversations? Those are gone, he said. Even with his girlfriend.

“We spent the holidays together, and we got back to Boston — we don’t live together — and she said, `Would you rather me stay, or do you want some alone time?’” Frankel recalled. “I said, I would actually love to be alone for a few hours and get ready for the workweek.”

Her reaction? “Uh, rude!” Frankel said.

The whole episode, Frankel added, has already prompted plenty of jokes from friends, who can’t seem to stop sending him memes from the similarly plotted Jim Carrey movie “Liar Liar.

Frankel said he can’t be sure how long the experiment will last, but he hopes to make it a longstanding habit. “I feel that the longer I do it, the easier it will become,” he said. “Lying is a skill, and the more you lie, the better you get at it. I’m hoping honesty is the same way — the more truth I say, the fewer times I lie, the better I’ll get at it.”

So for now, he’s keeping score. The last lie he consciously told, Frankel said, was telling a distant relative that it was good to see them over the holidays.

“What I should have said is, `Hey, how are you?’ Or, `Hey, I didn’t know you were going to make it to New York,'” he said. “I could have said a million other introductions. Instead I said, `Hey, it’s good to see you.’ It’s not. We aren’t really in touch.”