Summary: There are many reasons people lie to each other and also to themselves. Read on to see which category is a fit for you. Then decide what you want to change.
It starts, for all of us, when we are very young. From childhood, who remembers that chant: “Who took the cookies from the cookie jar?” and the refrain: “Not me.”
That is to say; it was an early message to play it safe, no matter what. We learned about safety before we encountered the concept of integrity.
I will leave the idea of integrity for another time. However, it’s worth a short definition. It is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.
Now, back to looking at lying.
Playing it safe is a survival method.
For example, were you the toddler with chocolate smeared from ear to ear saying, “I didn’t eat any candy?” Or the third-grader with bright red nails that now decorates the beige living room carpet who says, “What nail polish?”
Maybe you were the high schooler who told your parents you had a B on your term paper. You know, that very same term paper you had not even turned into your class.
Does telling the truth really set us free?
We have all heard “the truth shall set you free,” yet lying is a daily occurrence. Read on to see which pattern, from fibs to fraud, fits your personality. And, more importantly, what to do about it.
Above all, there is a big question to answer.
I know the answer. I’ll ask it anyway.
Did you ever lie? If you are alive and breathing, the answer is “Of course!”
Why do we do it? Why do we twist the truth and turn a blind eye to others who do so?
I just gave you one answer. It’s to play it safe. There are more reasons.
Lying is a multi-colored issue
Most importantly, there are various shades of gray in lying. It can go from catching a fish that gets bigger and bigger with each telling. Then it ramps up to some of the famous liars of the day who end up disgraced or in jail.
The following are definitely out of integrity. Mostly, these “big” liars do pay a steep price once they are known.
Remember Lance Armstrong, who admitted using performance-enhancing drugs after years of denying allegations.
There was Bernard Madoff, whose charm won over smart folks like Steven Spielberg and Elie Wiesel with his Ponzi Scheme.
Or consider disgraced Olympic swimmer Brian Lochte. He fabricated a robbery to save his butt after a night of heavy drinking in Rio. Did he exaggerate (small fish becomes a big fish) or outright lie, hoping to save his butt?
What other celebrity names come to mind? Kardashian, Markle, Lohan?
Make a list of your favorite politicians who have said things like “What Watergate?” or “I did not sleep with that woman.” Or “They stole the election.”
Further, how do you respond to those who say, “The holocaust never happened?”Or perhaps “There is no such thing as systemic racism.”
In addition, there is a big lie that can destroy the planet “Climate change is a hoax!”
Greek mythology is filled with ways to trick others
Did you know that Greek mythology spends much time discussing the feats of heroes and gods? Interestingly, it’s also a landscape of deception and tricks.
The ancient Greek philosopher Plato imagined that in his ideal city, there was to be no poetry. He felt there were too many representations of swindling, cheating, and outright lying.
For example, think of The Trojan Horse. Or of how others lied to Zeus, the most influential figure in Greek mythology. And, let me add, he was also a terrific liar. You can read more here.
I could go on and on. However, I want you to look at your propensity to move out of integrity. That means your tendency to lie, embellish, or bypass the truth.
Which type of liar are you?
Here are the five most common types of liars out there. I bet you can fit the mold of at least one. The only way to deep psychological health is to admit to your pattern. Then have the courage to do something about it.
Let’s start with the biggest liars and move down the scale:
Sociopaths can charm us into believing them.
Sociopaths: One lie begets and another lie. There is a belief that what you are saying is true. And then there have been some “snags” on the path to success. If you are a sociopath, you are most likely charming and charismatic and have an excellent communication command. You fawn over others and seduce them with your plans and possibilities.
You hope this will make, not just you, those in your realm, rich and famous. However, the lies are self-centered and manipulative. Once someone suspects you are lying, you move on fast to new prey and discount those who challenge you. Sociopaths are often super-achievers who are also perfectionists.
Habitual Liars and a short memory
Habitual liars: You lie because you are afraid of the wrath of others. “I didn’t do it; I wasn’t there,” “You never told me,” “No one includes me” are the words of a fear-based compulsive liar. This type of response often results from being abused, physically or verbally, as a child. Lying is a protective method to keep yourself safe and help you survive. Habitual liars are often avoiders. They say what they think you want to hear and keep their negative thoughts to themselves. Most habitual liars avoid because they hate conflict. These folks are fearful of big judged or blamed for what is happening.
Sporadic Lying can become constant
Sporadic liars: Mostly, you are upfront and tell the truth. However, on occasion, the situation is sticky, and rather than suffer the embarrassment of fessing up, you sidestep the fact. You know you lied. You did not want anyone to know the real reason you were late for a meeting. More straightforward to blame the traffic than an argument with your spouse. Yet, guilt and conscience often make you own up to your uncomfortable deception. Lying is usually to save face. Keep doing it, and you may end up in the ranks of the sociopath. You start as a rescuer who wants to help people and eventually get caught in your trap.
Sloppy Lying will get you in trouble
Sloppy liars: You want to be accepted. There is a yearning to be part of the inner circle. You figure out what “they” want to hear. Then you embellish, point fingers without evidence, make- up statistics, and never check your sources. You are a great storyteller and crave attention; you love it when all eyes are upon you. However, there is always too much to remember, and eventually, you trip and fall. Often drama kings and queens fit into this category.
Ah, those little white lies can cause big trouble.
White liars: You see the lies as harmless and maybe even helpful. Telling the fat gal, she looks great in her dress while inside, you feel like gagging. You are furious with your boss and yet tell him all is good between you. You want to shield others from being hurt, so you sugarcoat your remarks. Your philosophy is “no harm.” Yet, you end up leaving lots of debris when you walk the other way. This area of being helpful in the wrong way is the realm of pleasers.
When you leave little bits of lying in the room, everyone loses
Little lies often turn into big lies. For instance, I believe our society is addicted to not just telling lies, addicted to accepting them.
The first thing to do is admit which type of liar you are. This honesty is the best way OUT. Firstly, you learn to OBSERVE your behavior. If the same kind of response happens over and over, you need to pay real attention. Subsequently, Further, it is imperative to UNDERSTAND why you do what you do. It takes some time to look inside, and yes, it is worth it. Finally, you are in a position to TRANSFORM what it means to speak the truth. Once you do, you are free.
I have been tracking those who are known as liars and those seen as truth-tellers. There is a vast chasm between deception and integrity. And it is impacting all areas of our lives.
Stress and lying
In conclusion, most lying connects with stress. You want to be safe, included, or praised. The fear is you will be unprotected, abandoned, or ridiculed. Take the stress quiz to see where you fit on the stress scale. Then learn what to do so you can de-stress and lie less.
Here’s to your success,
PS. You can reach out to one of our coaches for a private session. Get some guidance for the following steps to better collaboration and higher productivity.