We tell our children that Father Christmas is real, that the Easter Bunny is real and many other lies, but a nice lie of course. The myths of the Easter bunny and Father Christmas are meant to bring joy in childhood. However some children feel hurt and angry when they find out it was a fallacy. When do you think it’s alright to lie?
Women lie more than men!
According to research, people lie about two to three times every day. Women lie more than men. They tell more white lies to protect people’s feelings, for example a woman would tell their best friend that she doesn’t look fat in her new dress.
Most people don’t recognise lies
Researchers from the University of California have found that people only recognise about half of the lies they are told and specialists trained to spot lies (judges, customs agents and police officers) don’t do much better. They only recognise sixty percent of lies. The Californian researchers also found people start lying around the age of four.
All religions state that we should not lie and yet it is still a very human trait.
The different types of lies
Of course, there are different kinds of lies, for example the white lies people tell to avoid hurting someone with the truth. Then there is exaggeration. People who delight in telling funny stories think there’s no harm in exaggerating. There is also being economical with the truth. People limit the information they give to avoid a confrontation or difficult situation.
Then there are the people, who tell total and utter fabricated stories. Why do they do this? Sometimes for personal gain, for example if they are stealing from a company they may need to invent a series of lies to cover up the deception.
It is confronting to discover you’ve been lied to – that someone has stood in front of you, looked into your eyes and blatantly told you a mistruth. Be aware that people with a personality disorder often lie. Sociopaths, narcissists and psychopaths are compulsive liars. If you’ve studied psychology you might be aware of these personality disorders.
Sociopaths tend to be impulsive and erratic people. They have emotional abnormalities. Their feelings are often fleeting hence they have bursts of extreme rage and jealousy. Intellectually they know the difference between right and wrong, but they don’t have a conscious. They struggle to form meaningful relationships, and because their emotions are fleeting, they bore easily. They often become addicted to drugs and alcohol. They love the thrill of winning and tend to see other people as toys therefore they have absolutely no qualms about telling bare-face lies to get an advantage.
Psychopaths are not a Hollywood invention. It is a real personality disorder. Psychopaths have zero ability to empathise with other people. They are totally incapable of feeling sorry for another person, or seeing a situation through the eyes of someone else. Psychiatrists believe that psychopaths are born, not created by a dysfunctional childhood. People are genetically predisposed to the condition. Most psychopaths are not dangerous criminals.
While sociopaths appear to be reckless and unhinged, psychopaths often appear very charming and trustworthy. They may have a professional career and be well educated. Psychopaths never grow to truly care for other people, because other people mean nothing to them but they are very good at pretending to care for others if they think it will ultimately benefit them. Psychopaths have an exaggerated sense of their own importance and a constant need for stimulation. They can be highly intelligent and often do well at work. But they are always willing to sacrifice others to achieve their goal and so they have absolutely no misgivings about lying to you.
Narcissism is another personality disorder with a prevalence for lying. Psychiatrists believe that narcissists are created by a childhood trauma and the individual may also have a genetic predisposition to the condition. At their core, a narcissist believes they are worthless – perhaps they were abused or abandoned as a child and blame themselves. But to counter their feeling of worthlessness, the narcissist tells him or herself every minute that they are more special than other people: they are more intelligent, attractive and deserving than everyone else. Some of the quintessential traits of a narcissist are: 1. they believe they know everything and are always right; 2. they believe they are entitled to special treatment (they deserve the best table at the restaurant, a special discount in shops); 3. they are very charming because they want people to adore them; and 4. they have no real empathy for other people and always put their needs first. As partners, they usually have frequent extramarital affairs because they are on a constant quest for adoration and admiration. They have absolutely no qualms about lying because they love to impress people and constantly desire advantages and special treatment.
How to deal with liars
If you have a person in your life who is always lying to you, it’s time to stop and ask yourself if they could have one of these personality disorders. If it is a friend, you need to seriously consider whether you should continue a friendship with such a toxic individual. If it is a family member, I urge you to see professional advice. Are their lies impacting on your happiness? If it is a parent or spouse and you are dealing with their constant lying, seek the advice of a psychologist or counsellor. Do not think that you can help or reform these people. They will destroy you.
If you work with someone who tells constant lies you need to protect yourself. What are your options? First, it is easier said than done, but try not to react emotionally. You may feel hurt and betrayed, but if you are dealing with a psychopath their response will not be emotional. It will be purely rational hence they have the advantage if you react emotionally. You also need to react without emotion. Second, you must establish boundaries. Be polite but essentially you need as little contact as possible with this individual. Decline their invitations spending time with them. These are only opportunities for them to manipulate you. Third, ask yourself if you actually need to take action in the workplace? Have they tarnished your reputation, or only hurt your pride and made you feel stupid so they can feel good? If it is the latter I would suggest doing nothing and avoiding the individual, rather than going to your boss. Fourth, you could deflect the lie with humour. Say something like, “Sure, that’s going to happen when Easter and Christmas fall on the same day.” But be careful, narcissists sometimes believe their own lies and when confronted, react with rage. You might want to call the liar out, say straight out “I don’t believe you”. Be tactful and courteous, have the proof at hand to establish they are wrong. Finally protect yourself legally. If they have lied to you about a project, put it in an email but be tactful, for example:
John, regarding our conversation today, I’m just emailing to ensure I’ve understood your assessment correctly. You said X, Y, Z and I need to do A,B,C. Have I got that right?
Print, save and archive your emails. Do you need to cc them to another team member? If the situation is damaging you at work, you need to speak to your HR department or boss. Companies will not tolerate defamatory lies and damaging mistruths. But you need to document the lies of you colleague. You need witnesses and emails. A psychopath will ensure his leaves no evidence; the same is not true of narcissists and sociopaths.
Dealing with a compulsive liar is horrible. It’s disappointing, distressing and upsetting. Psychiatrists are not sure what percentage of the population are sociopaths, narcissists and psychopaths. It could be as higher than five percent. This means it’s almost inevitable that at some point in your life you will come up against one of these types. If you are struggling to deal with such an individual in a personal or professional setting, again look for some professional help through your doctor. But the basic response is: don’t respond emotionally; limit or stop contact; and protect yourself legally and emotionally.
ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.