Liar liar, pants on fire!

We all know that people lie sometimes, and generally agree that occasional little white lies are acceptable, when they’re not malicious, and they’re intended to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.

But what do you do when lies are causing concern or difficulties in your life, either your own lies or someone else’s? This is the first of three blogs on the topic of lying:

o If someone is lying to you, what can you do?

o Why kids lie, and what can parents do?

o Help; I don’t want to keep lying!

So, if someone is lying to you, what can you do?

1. First, look at the intent

For the person telling the lie, it does matter for some reason;

• Maybe they’re worried about how you or other family/colleagues etc would react to the truth? Feeling that people will be disappointed or disapproving?

• Are they putting undue pressure on themselves, or have unrealistic expectations?

• Are they trying to control the story to keep control of the situation or outcome?

For example, not giving you the whole story so you’ll ‘make the right decision/pick the right side’.

• Do they truly believe their version of events? Whether through time, stress, or how they perceived an event or outcome, is it a memory issue?

• Or is it an extreme ‘fake it until you make it’? Do they so much want their lie to be true that it overrides their instinct to tell the truth.

2. Ask open questions

Asking what’s going on is the first way to help, for example ‘I feel like you’re uncomfortable talking about X’, or ‘I feel like maybe you’re not giving me the whole story, why is that?’

3. Don’t be angry with them

It can be frustrating when someone lies to you; even if you recognise they have their reasons, its hard to trust them and can make even simple interactions tricky to navigate. Ask the open questions, and be kind and caring, but firm.

4. Be ready for denials

And outrage! ‘Are you accusing me …?’ Again, try to calm and reasonable, explain that you care about this issue, and/or care about them, and you’d like to work out the truth and the best way forward.

5. Focus on them

While it’s natural to feel hurt when someone lies to you, it may help to remember that it’s unlikely to be about you. The person has their reason for lying, and it could be about self-image, anxiety, or other things negatively impacting that person. Let them know you care about them, and that they don’t need to lie to impress you.

6. Be consistent

When you feel that the person is lying to you, ask them about it. Encourage honesty by not continuing a conversation where you’re confident the person is continuing to lie. And, of course, model the right behaviour by being open and honest yourself.

7. Look after yourself

Remembering that the lies are not about you, they are also, at the end of the day, not your problem. Don’t get bogged down in continually ‘outing’ their lies or digging into the detail; keep your own grasp on the truth while supporting the liar in feeling comfortable with the truth. And be prepared that they may not change; obviously how you deal with that is very situation dependent so do what is comfortable and right for you.

(Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash)