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Should You Tell Everyone They’re Honest?

Christian B. Miller: Suppose you come to believe, as I do, that most of the people we know do not have any of the virtues. So your friend, your boss, your neighbor … you need to change your opinion of all of them. Now here is the interesting idea — even with this new outlook firmly in mind, you should still go ahead and call them honest people next time you see them. You should still praise them for being compassionate. You should go out of your way to comment on their courage. Why would you do such a thing? Isn’t that just wrong? Let’s wait and see. The idea is to attach a label to people you know. Labels make a big difference. For with that label attached to them, there is a good chance that they will try to live up to it. And perhaps the more they care about living up to the label, such as honest person, the more they will actually become that honest person.

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