When Someone Won’t Believe You

The high profile controversy currently raging about exactly what and when Roger Goodell and the NFL knew about Ray Rice’s violent attack on his then girlfriend is a dramatic example of a situation most of us have faced at one point or another over the course of our lives, namely, finding ourselves in a situation where someone doesn’t believe we are telling the truth. They believe we are lying and nothing we do will convince them otherwise. (What I believe about the Goodell controversy is irrelevant for purposes of this post.)


Of course, there are myriad, shimmering, spectacular examples of people who lied and were, rightly, not believed. Certainly, the most famous in recent memory is “I did not have sexual relations with that young woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” Alas there is an infinite supply of individuals who omnipotently believe they can fool everyone. This phenotype of false denial is counterbalanced by tragic examples of people wrongly convicted or framed to take the fall for something they didn’t do. But the point of today’s post is not to examine the rightness or wrongness of any of these scenarios. The point of this post is to examine how we handle it when someone doesn’t believe us when we are telling the truth.


One snowy morning in 1976 when I was in third grade, Terri, our 19 year old school bus driver, yelled at all of us to shut up and remain silent for the remainder of the drive to school. At the time, I was wearing a blue snow parka with a fake fur hood, so my face was partially obscured. Being an obedient child, I kept my mouth shut, but leaned over to see what the girl next to me was drawing. From her rearview mirror, Terri saw me do this and screamed at me, accusing me in front of everyone of disobeying her. Once we arrived at school, she dragged me into the Principal’s office. No one believed my tearful denials and I was punished. I have never forgotten that day.


When was the last time someone didn’t believe you?


Let’s break it down like a geometrical proof: Two people (A & B) who interact on a somewhat regular basis have an altercation where A accuses B of doing or saying X. B is innocent and has denied it; A refuses to believe B. How does B proceed, standing wrongly accused by A?


(NB: I am not addressing scenarios where B is claiming innocence based on a technicality—see Bill Clinton above.)


Generally speaking, in scenarios such as these, B is rarely an innocent lamb. At some point, B may very well have criticized something A has done or said–even something related to X, but B did not do what A believes. By way of a parallel, if I shoplift, that doesn’t mean I am just as likely to be guilty of physically assaulting the storeowner.


Often, A and B are people who lack a sympathetic trust or affection between them. Examples include in-laws or relatives who don’t thrill to see one another; colleagues who’d just as soon not work together; or parents of children who are friends with our kids. This type of relationship is fertile ground for such misunderstandings.


A fundamental truth of re-booting is that we need to find a strategy to calmly withstand the slings and arrows of those who perceive us as worse than we are. We have to make peace with the fact that not everyone will like us and that, on occasion, we’ll stand unjustly accused. I know how uncomfortable this can feel—what about you?


Learning how to move forward without getting distracted by the opinions and actions of others is far harder than it sounds. We have our reputations to consider; we want the world to think the best of us. Considering that none of us lives in a vacuum and we must coexist with those around us, it’s fully understandable that we would feel upset when wrongly condemned or criticized by others. But, common sense tells us that it’s gonna happen to all of us. That’s just how life goes…


Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote, “What other people think of me is none of my business. One of the highest places you can get to is being independent of the good opinions of other people.”


This statement comes in handy because we cannot control others’ opinions of us—whether good or ill. We cannot control what our in-laws, our coworkers, our neighbors, or the person we just got into a fender bender with believes about us. The best we can do is to live our lives unburdened by such evaluations. In other words, you can’t worry about it. Leave them to their opinion; just ignore it and go forward the best way you know how.


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2 Responses to “When Someone Won’t Believe You”

  1. Lisa Says:

    I. Love. This. So good. So apropos for something I am dealing with right now. I had never heard the sentence “what people think of you is none of your business” until a few years ago. It frees me to move forward when there are circumstances in which you feel as if people are forming opinions about you. Love your blog!

  2. dignitarysretreat Says:

    Thanks for your kind words, Lisa; I’m delighted you wrote in. It’s so much easier to say than do, but it really is freeing when we are able to stop worrying about what other people think of us. I find it keeps me steady and I’m far less likely to get thrown off by other’s bad opinions (or withdrawal of their good ones). In my office, I have a copy of the wonderful illustrated children’s story The Little Engine That Could. Good luck with your situation.

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