Liar, liar, pants on fire

Liar, liar, pants on fire

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”― Abraham Lincoln

People lie a lot. I also do many times. But often we get caught and people lose trust in us. Sometimes this affects relationships too. Tell me how to stop this habit? - Geetha, Vijayawada.

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”― Abraham Lincoln

Everyone lies once in a while, although the number and severity of lies varies from one person to another. People lie for various reasons. While some people lie in an attempt to avoid punishment or to avoid hurting someone else's feelings. Others lie out of impulse or because they want to present themselves as someone they are not.

Not all lies are harmful. In fact, sometimes lying is the best approach for protecting privacy and ourselves and others from malice. Some deception, such as boasting and lies in the name of tact and politeness, can be classified as less than serious. But bald-faced lies (whether they involve leaving out the truth or putting in something false) are harmful, as they corrode trust and intimacy—the glue of the society.

Lying requires a lot of effort. When you tell the truth, you simply remember what happens. When you lie you have to consider what you're trying to hide, figure out a believable version of the opposite, give a convincing performance to sell that lie, and then remember it for the rest of eternity so you never get caught.

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” ― Mark Twain

According to deception expert Pamela Meyer, the average person lies three times within the first minute of meeting a stranger and between 10 and 200 times per day. We handle this constant lying well considering how remarkably often it occurs, but that's especially easy to do when we have an easy time ignoring the consequences. However, honesty provides far more mental and physical health benefits than dishonesty.

What motivates people to lie?

Psychologist Robert Feldman cites self-esteem as one of the biggest culprits in our lying ways: "We find that as soon as people feel that their self-esteem is threatened, they immediately begin to lie at higher levels."

Feldman believes that many lies are simply for the purpose of maintaining social contacts by avoiding insults or discord. Small lies that avoid conflict are probably the most common sort of lie and avoiding conflict is a top motivator for deception.

Reasons for lying

  • Most common reasons for which people resort to lying:
  • To please -In order to maintain the pleasantness of any social situation, people lie. Questions like ‘How do I look?’, ‘Am I getting Fat?’ or ‘Did you like my gift?’ are bound to fetch lies.
  • To save your own face– Usually there are certain truths about everyone that are best kept hidden. It is much easier to simply lie than to share embarrassing truths about oneself with others.
  • To avoid favours - The percentage of people who are always on the ready to help is fairly low. Most of the population would simply lie rather than actually being helpful to others.
  • To boast - Though these lies are more or less harmless, they are way too common. Some people have this need to feel better about themselves which they try to suffice by painting a better picture of themselves in front of others.
  • To get benefits - It is no secret that everyone lies a little bit in an interview or to get an interview. The lure of other worldly things and benefits can also prompt people to lie.
  • To evade punishment - This point needs no explanation as we all lied to our teachers in school to avoid punishment. People lie to their superiors, parents or spouse to avoid any kind of punishment or penalty.
  • To influence - Lies can be a small part of big schemes of conniving people. People can get really elaborate with lies in order to change an opinion of someone.
  • To prove a point - Some adamant people may easily resort to lying just to prove their point. This adamant class of people can also get quite creative when it comes to lying.

Lying to ourselves

People sometimes lie to themselves. They justify such lies, without realising that they are doing so. Because they have ‘internalised’ the half-truths and fabrications after telling too many of them, way too many times, and end up believing them to be true. The mind, it turns out, is quite capable of such deception, and it happens when we are in denial of a rather harsh truth.

How to stop lying

  • Decide to stop lying: Figure out why you lie. Knowing the root cause of your lying is the first step to making a change.
  • Determine why you want to quit: Have clarity and clear reasons for the decision. Think hard about what effect lying has on your sense of self, your relationships, and the course of your life. Often quitting your lying habit can re-establish the lost relationships, help gain back trust, self-worth and personal pride.
  • Identify triggers: To successfully stop lying, it helps to identify the situations, emotions, people, or places that tend to cause you to avoid telling the truth. Once you know what triggers your lies, you can either avoid the trigger or find a way to confront it with honesty.
  • Practice telling the truth: If you've been lying more often than not, telling the truth really does take practice. The key is to think before you speak, and decide to say something true instead. Again, if you're asked a question you can't answer truthfully, don't answer. The more you tell the truth, the easier it becomes.
  • Forgive yourself for past mistakes: When you live with one foot in the past, you will likely tell yourself all sorts of things that are not really true. You might call yourself ‘stupid’ or ‘loser’. Forgive yourself for not having the foresight to know what you know now in hindsight.
  • Learn how to value yourself without depending on the judgment of others. Learn how to be more influential without telling stories that never happened and learn how to have faith in yourself and your abilities. Only then you will stop lying.

Take outside help

  • Work with a therapist: Talking with trained psychologist helps the transition from frequent lying to honesty.
  • Talk to the people you're close to: Certain people in your life will want to help you stop lying, even if they've been hurt before by your dishonesty. If you feel comfortable doing so, tell your parents, siblings, or a close friend about your plan to stop lying. So they can provide some support.
  • Join a support group: Talking with other people who understand exactly what you're going through is invaluable. Look for an online support group or a group that meets in person in your community.

By:N Radhika Acharya

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