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July 14, 2024

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Trust Not a Horse’s Heel nor a Dog’s Tooth – Deciphering the Meaning and Origins of the English Proverb

The English proverb “Trust not a horse’s heel nor a dog’s tooth” is a centuries-old piece of wisdom that serves…

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In our fast-paced world, communication has become more immediate than ever before. With the advent of instant messaging, email, and social media, people expect rapid responses to their inquiries. Yet, there is a downside to this accelerated communication: delayed responses can often be misinterpreted as dishonesty. This article explores the phenomenon of how failing to answer questions quickly can lead others to believe you are lying, shedding light on the psychological mechanisms behind this misconception and offering tips on how to navigate such situations.

The Speed of Modern Communication

The digital age has revolutionized the way we communicate, and with it, our expectations for prompt responses. Instant messaging apps, email, and social media platforms have conditioned us to expect quick replies. When someone fails to respond promptly, we may instinctively become suspicious or anxious, leading to a misjudgment of their intentions.

The Perception of Deception

Several psychological factors contribute to the perception that delayed responses are indicative of deception:

  1. Anxiety and Uncertainty: When someone delays their response, it can create anxiety and uncertainty in the person awaiting a reply. In this state of emotional discomfort, the mind is more likely to jump to negative conclusions, such as assuming the delay is due to deception.
  2. Cognitive Dissonance: Delayed responses can lead to cognitive dissonance, where our beliefs and emotions are in conflict. If we believe that someone should have a quick answer to a straightforward question, and they don’t, we may unconsciously attribute this to dishonesty to resolve the cognitive dissonance.
  3. The Availability Heuristic: The availability heuristic is a cognitive bias that causes us to rely on the most readily available information when making judgments. In the context of communication, if we can’t readily access a response from someone, we might assume the worst – that they are lying or hiding something.
  4. Social Norms and Expectations: In a world where responsiveness is highly valued, the failure to adhere to these social norms can lead to judgments of dishonesty. People often assume that others should be as quick to respond as they are, and deviations from this norm can breed suspicion.

Navigating the Misconception

To prevent others from perceiving you as dishonest due to delayed responses, consider the following strategies:

  1. Set Clear Expectations: Communicate with others about your response time preferences. Let them know if you may not be able to respond immediately due to other commitments or circumstances.
  2. Be Transparent: If a delay is due to a legitimate reason, such as needing time to gather information or think through a complex issue, share this with the person awaiting your response. Transparency can alleviate suspicion.
  3. Prioritize Communication: Make an effort to prioritize important messages and inquiries to respond promptly. Setting aside time for regular communication can help manage expectations.
  4. Manage Your Notifications: Adjust your notification settings to reduce the pressure to respond instantly. This can help you take the time needed to provide accurate and well-thought-out responses.
  5. Avoid Assumptions: When waiting for a response from someone else, try to avoid jumping to conclusions about their intentions. Remember that there could be various reasons for a delayed response, many of which have nothing to do with dishonesty.


In today’s world of rapid communication, the perception that delayed responses indicate dishonesty is a common misunderstanding. However, it’s essential to recognize that there are various reasons for slow responses, and not all of them are related to deceit. By setting clear expectations, being transparent, and managing communication effectively, you can navigate these situations and ensure that your intentions are not misinterpreted. Likewise, as recipients of delayed responses, it’s crucial to exercise patience and avoid jumping to conclusions, allowing for a more understanding and less judgmental communication environment.


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