Why Do People Lie?

Why Do People Lie?
Photo Credit: Bet_Noire / iStockPhoto.com
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The Nature of Lying and How to Stop

Lying is so common that most people expect to be lied to at some point. Worse, they may think it is acceptable to lie to others.

Lies create such havoc and destroy relationships. With trust and honesty being the necessary elements of a relationship, how can one withstand the onslaught of lies?

In many cases, the relationship, whether it is professional, academic, romantic, or personal, cannot tolerate the dishonesty, and the connection dissolves.

The Problem With Lies

Lying is a difficult problem to understand because of the various types of lies and the various reasons for lying. Some might lie to spare feelings or protect a loved one, while others will lie in a conscious effort to manipulate and deceive for their personal gain.

People who lie work to create a differentiation between “little white lies” and actual lies. They find ways to justify their actions, though they generally lack the perspective to make this conclusion.

The person saying the lie cannot be the one judging the impact of it — that responsibility falls on the person that was lied to.

A common example of a white lie deemed acceptable is the wife getting ready to leave the house before asking her husband, “Do these pants look okay?” The husband replies, “Of course.” He is lying but justifies his actions as a means to preserve his wife’s self-esteem and to avoid a conflict.

These types of lies may not have a significant influence on the relationship, but it does speak to the great problem: a lack of effective communication. People who have strong communication do not need to lie because they can find a way to deliver the truth in a respectful, straightforward way.

Occasional lies are bad — more frequent or more intense lies are worse. Unfortunately, as people begin to accept being lied to and lying to others, the lies usually escalate in intensity and frequency. What was once reserved for a little white lie, lying has now become an elaborate web of deception.

Who Lies and Why Do They Do It?

Let’s compare lying to depression. Everyone gets sad sometimes and experiences some level of depressed mood, but not everyone has a diagnosable depressive disorder.

Similarly, everyone lies to some degree, but not everyone is a pathological liar. The connection between lying and mental health issues continue, as some psychological disorders are related to higher levels of lying that might be caused by the disorder:

ADHD

Children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to lie in situations, but the reason may not be as nefarious as some believe.

People with ADHD are impulsive and they generally have poor memories. This combination leads to a larger frequency of lies due to spontaneously offering inaccurate information and basing responses on material that has been forgotten.

Also, people with ADHD may change their stories by telling you one thing and then another. This lying isn’t intentional necessarily — it can be due to a lack of ability to recall what was previously stated.

Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are a range of disorders that affect many aspects of relationships with others and interactions with the world. Each personality disorder will be marked by a brand of lie.

  • Antisocial. If someone has ever been referred to a “pathological liar” or “sociopath,” antisocial personality disorder most likely would be their diagnosis. A person with this condition will lie, cheat, and steal to obtain their goal regardless of the effects on the other people. Manipulation is accomplished through lies and deception without remorse.
  • Narcissistic. Someone with narcissistic personality disorder believes themselves to be exceptional. To prove this, they will lie about many facets of their lives, like how much money they make, how many friends they have, and other accomplishments. Their sense of entitlement will lead them to exploit others.
  • Borderline. People with borderline personality disorder have very inconsistent and volatile relationships fueled by an enormous fear of loss. To prevent loss, they will lie and manipulate to maintain the relationship. Once the relationship ends, they may continue the lies in an effort to emotionally damage their former partner.

A major theme of the lies committed by people with a personality disorder is control. By lying, they can manage the ways other people see them, which gives them a sense of power.

Depression

People with depression may exhibit another type of lying. Rather than inflating their importance or standing, they will minimize their skills and abilities, which seems to diminish their power and control.

They will lie to themselves and others saying they are no good and not worth others’ time. These lies may increase if their loved ones begin to shower praise upon the person, as it will temporarily improve their mood.

Breaking the Cycle

If you are tired of lying or being lied to, there is much to be done. For many, lying is a natural and normal part of life. To change, you must commit towards a life of honesty. Here’s how:

  • Start slow. Changing cannot happen overnight. The impact on your relationships would be detrimental, as your loved ones could not understand the sudden change. Instead, work to reduce your lies and increase your honesty each day.
  • Let others know. Proclaiming your desire for honesty in your life to the people you have regular contact with will grant them a better awareness of your goals. You can let them know you will not tolerate lies or lying. They should expect to get called out for engaging in such behaviors.
  • Don’t despair. You know honesty will be more challenging, and your venture will be met with some resistance and negative responses from others. When you think about submitting, recall your objective: to lead a more truthful life. That message will carry you through.
  • Be realistic. Sure, you want honesty in your life, but you cannot break ties with every person that utters falsities. Be patient with people while giving them plenty of opportunities to make or break the relationship. In fact, establishing deal breakers is a fantastic way to know when the relationship can no longer be maintained.

Just because everyone lies does not mean you have to be like everyone. You can be your own person by holding yourself to higher expectations and requiring a higher level of respect. Challenge your creativity by being honest and truth and your relationships will only improve.