3 Reasons We Lie and 3 Solutions
We say it is wrong. We reword things to say “white lie” or “fibbing” to ease our guilt. We cross our fingers and hope for the best as if to suspend judgment and convince ourselves we are playing on the right side of communicative fair play. This blog explores white lies: the reasons and solutions.
Why Do We Lie?
It turns out the cards are stacked against us, both on a behaviorally and evolutionary scale. Researchers think as soon as Humans could communicate, we were manipulating the truth. According to writer Yudhijit Bhattacharjee of National Geographic, “The ability to manipulate others without using physical force likely conferred an advantage in the competition for resources and mates, akin to the evolution of deceptive strategies in the animal kingdom, such as camouflage.” Thus lying is built into our human DNA; it is safe to say that, to lie is to be human. According to Mark Twain, “A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself as a liar.”
These days, there are three main reasons we lie:
- We do it to promote ourselves or protect ourselves: We worry that we may loose the respect of those around us. We really may want the lie to be true so badly that the needs and desires outweigh the need to tell the truth.
- We do it to affect others-to be kind or cruel: Remember that time your Aunt asked how you liked your Reindeer themed sweater she got you for Christmas?
- We do it for inexplicable reasons: Lets face it, the truth can be inconvenient. Maybe we are trying to control a situation and exert influence towards getting results or reactions we want. One lie leads to another and then the snowball effect occurs. And if a chronic liar admits to any one lie, then their perfectly constructed house of cards will come falling down; that means she is a liar and you will have reason to distrust her.
As frustrating as it is to listen to lies, we can begin to understand the motivation behind them. Asking the person:“Why is this situation so important to you.” Or, why is it important that I see this the same way you do?” These can be non-judgmental ways to get at the underlying reason for the deceptions. Do not ask, “Why are you lying?” These individuals do not want to be seen as liars and this question does exactly that. Communicating empathy for a person’s desperation is also a skill. This will allow them to see that honest communication is important. Finally, recognize and reinforce truth telling. This will reinforce more truth telling. The person will see that telling the truth really does not have to be scary.