We’ve all had occasion to lie!
No one’s ever likely to say they had a lousy night’s sleep when someone’s been kind enough to let them stay overnight or say ‘what a dreadful meal, at least I don’t have to cook!’ after being a dinner party guest!
But what constitutes an acceptable or unacceptable approach to truth-telling?
What’s the difference between good and bad lies?
Most people appreciate that white lies are okay when tact and good manners are called for or when it comes to avoiding hurting someone’s feelings over something relatively minor.
When they’ve been kind enough to invite us as their guest, we’re unlikely to respond with brutal honesty or criticism, unless they’re looking to go into hospitality, where a little appropriate feedback may be useful in helping them improve their offering.
There are times when diplomacy is called for, but what about those experiences we’ve had with people who constantly lie, about almost everything?
What may start out being tolerated as a brag, something that we may even smile about and shrug off as ‘just them’ may after a while start to rankle, become irritating, annoying and maybe even unacceptable.
- Why do they do it?
- Are they trying to impress us?
- Is there something that they’re trying to hide, deflect attention from and cover up by lying?
Whatever their story, after a while we may end up feeling cynical about anything they say. We may even completely stop listening to them because there’s no point in paying attention to someone who’s a serial offender.
Offering excuses for being regularly late for work or for poor performance may need at some point to be addressed so that suitable, alternative solutions can be found.
Being honest in work and domestic situations treats everyone appropriately and enables any problem areas to be discussed with mutual respect.
In our interactions with others some topics may be regarded as off limits, perceived as being no one else’s business. Our age, earnings, health condition, relationship issues may feel too personal to disclose, especially if these parts of our lives already feel a little vulnerable or insecure. How much do we trust the other person, do they care about us, what do they want to know and why, will a level of confidentiality be applied? If we don’t feel comfortable having that conversation, we may lie to protect ourselves, constructing an alternative facade to mask the true story.
Or those times when we’ve gone against the advice and wishes of someone, ‘an expert’, in our inner circle and it’s all going horribly wrong! It can be tough to go and ask them for help in those circumstances or even admit to the mess we’re in. It can be tempting to lie to avoid the humiliation of ‘confessing’. Will they gloat, be smug, say, ‘I told you so’? Sometimes, rather than lie, we have to allow them their moment of glory, let them help and remind ourselves that this was our decision, a valuable experience and part of our journey to success.
However, at times it may feel that someone’s questioning and probing is too tenacious and invasive. It may gradually feel too much, become stressful and that we’re being coerced, almost interrogated. We may become uneasy as to their motives, suspicious and so lie in a bid to end the conversation and avoid further confrontation
That may strike a chord with those who choose to lie about their personal situation because they don’t want it to become the primary focus whenever they’re with others. In the midst of turmoil and high emotion they don’t want to have to automatically discuss how they are, how they feel or deliver the latest update whenever they meet.
Who wants to be viewed as a victim or have a constant reminder of the negative things happening in their lives?
Sometimes it’s good to have time away from it all.
For some people, there may be shame or embarrassment at things that have happened in their past and they don’t want to confess or admit to their previous wrong-doings. Many of us older ones are relieved at having grown up in the days before social media! There’s less likelihood of there being documented evidence of past indiscretions. Even so, for those wanting to maintain a lie it’s always advisable to keep the story as close to the truth as possible; then there’s less chance of forgetting details and being caught out.
Feeling stressed, overloaded and having too much to do can result in us lying. This can mean that we avoid having to dig too deep and tap into our internal resources in order to explain ourselves. If we’ve nothing left to give, are weary at the prospect of a conversation or discussion about a particular area of our lives, telling lies can feel like the easier option and a way to shut the conversation down. In that moment it can seem to be a quick fix, even if there are longer term implications as a consequence.
Some people claim that they never lie, but surely there are degrees of lying, from, ‘I love your new hairstyle’, to being on the witness stand in court or somewhere in-between. The litmus test must be what the consequences would be if found out. Sometimes it’s not about the lie, but who you told it to, what the intention was and why.
Susan Leigh, South Manchester Counsellor & Hypnotherapist lifestyletherapy.net