Cover-up: (n) any action, stratagem, or other means of concealing or preventing investigation or exposure.
Let me give you an example.
Let’s say we’re talking about the electric bill. Yes—that’s good. A common situation which we all certainly share in common.
If you’re trying to find out whether your friend, your wife or your roommate has paid the electric bill, it is necessary to phrase the question in such a way that they will not choose to lie because they already feel intimidated by your approach.
Now, you may totally disagree with this, but I have found if you want people to tell you the truth, be prepared that there’s a greater chance that they will lie. So don’t set them up to fib by making them feel stupid or guilty if they tell you the truth.
Back to the electric bill. Here is a terrible approach if you’re trying to find out if your partner has paid the bill:
“You DID pay the electric bill, right?”
You see, for them to tell you that they haven’t, they would have to be willing to be truthful and also survive a wave of anger you have already told them is ready to hit their beach. Not a good approach if you’re going to avoid cover-up.
A second bad angle is:
“What day did you pay the electric bill?”
Although not as intense, it still connotes that a normal, intelligent person would have already paid, and if they want to come across normal and intelligent but have not paid, they just might have to lie.
I must give you a third, horrible choice:
“The electric bill—that’s your department, isn’t it?”
The demons of being defensive will immediately rise and choke the truth out of your friend, making it impossible for him or her to tell you that it completely slipped their mind.
The only way you can guarantee that someone is going to tell you the truth is:
“I think I forgot to pay the electric bill. Did you pay it?”
You see, now if they didn’t pay it, they join you in being a fellow-delinquent. The pressure is off to shoulder the blame. There’s no need to provide an excuse, since you have already admitted that it was probably your responsibility.
I guess it all boils down to whether you want to find out if the electric bill has been paid, or if you would prefer to listen to cover-up after cover-up.
Until the house goes dark.