In recent weeks, my wife has gotten sucked into the show Pretty Little Liars. The girls on the show are the kind of eye candy that make me calculate when it won’t be creepy for me to like them, but the main attraction of the show is the suspense. The audience knows some of the lies, but not all of them. A few are revealed in each episode, but others are not, and new ones are told. All teh drama comes from who knows what and who blabs which secrets. When I’m watching, I see the characters who could probably fix a lot of their problems by just being honest, and I just want to shake them and tell them that honesty would make their lives better. It’s not the only show, movie, or real life situation that has made me feel this way.
As the saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. The majority of liars probably mean well or feel justified. Here are some of the common reasons for lying:
- Sparing someone’s feelings – This may seem like the most innocent reason to lie. Some examples might be telling someone they look good when they don’t, telling an ex that there’s still hope when there’s not, or not telling them the relationship is over at all when it actually is.
- Avoiding confrontation – This one occurs when someone has a problem, but says everything is okay. To them, the problem is not as bad as the fight that may result.
- Making yourself look better – Everyone exaggerates from time to time, right? Lying about your age, weight, accomplishments . . . This is what internet chat rooms were made for.
- Making someone else look worse – This one is closely related to the last one, but much more malicious. People spread untrue rumors or discredit rivals for plenty or reasons.
- Staving off consequences – My kids do this all the time. When one of them has made a mess or broken something (or even written their name on a wall), they all deny involvement because they know that whomever the culprit is awaits punishment. Adults do it, too, though.
- It’s a game – Some people lie because they enjoy lying. They feel like it gives them control over other people when they provide false information and influence the decisions of others.
- For no good reason at all – Some people actually suffer from a compulsion to lie.
The problem with lies is that the truth usually comes out, and few (if any) liars avoid getting caught. Once the truth is revealed, people are hurt, and the liar loses credibility. The truth, which may have hurt, is much worse when combined with the betrayal of being lied to. Even with something as simple as, “Does this outfit look alright?”, where the temptation is to lie and spare feelings, you influence their decision to go out looking bad, and they may do it again in the future. Information affects people’s decisions, and false information leads to faulty decisions.
The worst part about lying is being on the receiving end. Although the signs are easier to read if it’s coming from someone you know, the fact that you love and trust them often blinds you to obvious indicators. Here are some clues that someone is lying to you:
- Body language – Avoidance of eye contact, being overly fidgety, or any other mannerisms that are out of the ordinary can often indicate that somebody is not being honest. These are much easier to read if you actually know the person whom you suspect is lying.
- Facial expressions – If the facial expression doesn’t match with what they are saying, or if there is a delay in the appropriate expression, insincerity is likely. If someone gets a gift and says, “I love it” with a deadpan expression, that’s a pretty good clue.
- Defensiveness – When somebody gets unexpectedly defensive, it can indicate a guilty conscience.
- Evasive diction – Liars often try to separate themselves from the lies that they are telling. They may avoid using the pronouns “I” or “me”, or even refer to themselves in third person. “Who tells lies? Not this guy!”
- They have told you that they lied to someone else – When somebody tells you about a lie they told to somebody else, it’s often a manipulation tactic to earn your trust. It gives the air of, “I lied to this person, but I’m being honest with you.” However, if they lied to one person, they’re probably not opposed to lying to you, too. There’s only one truth, and the liar may not have told it to either of you.
- Your intuition – If you suspect someone is lying, but you can’t say why, chances are really good that they are. It’s easy to say that you’re just being paranoid, but in all likely hood, your subconscious has probably picked up that something is out of the ordinary.
Of course, these are not always correct, but most of the time they are. Still, get your facts straight before you make any accusations.
Dishonesty sucks all around. If you are the liar, you’re going to get caught, and you will lose friends, credibility, and respect. If you’re the one being lied to, you’re probably going to figure it out eventually, and then you feel betrayed and duped. Not to mention, if you made decisions based on the lie, you may have made the wrong one. Maybe what’s worst is if you’re the person who knows about the lie and you’re caught in the middle, unsure which person deserves your loyalty. Tell or don’t tell? It’s always a tough dilemma.
We’ve all been lied to. Feel free to vent about this universal frustration in the comments below.