Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Why do people lie?

We’ve all met them… people who breeze in and out of everyone’s lives leaving a trail of destruction and deceit behind them.  Compulsive liars who seem unable to tell the truth even about the simplest things; who lie so much that they seem to have no idea what truth is any more.  From the tiniest lies to the hugest, most devastatingly destructive lies.  I recently met such a person.  Within 5 minutes of talking to them I knew they were someone who was happily light with the truth.  Indeed everyone who knew this person soon became very aware of their inability to tell the truth.  This person seemed to enjoy lying, but wasn’t very good at it.  I remember hearing them claim to have studied 3 totally different subjects at University, for example. A harmless lie. But also pointless. Why do some people seem to enjoy lying to others?  This person not only lied about things that would have saved them from embarrassment, but also about things that were totally unnecessary.  They also told some huge whoppers that actually put the health and safety of others at risk.

A pathological liar is someone who feels compelled to lie about everything – big and small.  These people often lie to look good, or to gain socially or financially from others.   This type of person quite often manages to delude themselves and is often pitied by others. Some pathological liars may have a problem called antisocial personality disorder – in other words, a sociopath. Such liars often entangle themselves the longer they are around people; one lie leads to another; another lie is perpetrated to cover the tracks of a previous lie; and before they know what's happened they can’t remember what they have said to whom.

When a person lies (especially to a friend) they break a certain bond. They break trust.  Coming clean about a lie is the only way to help mend that trust. But if the person refuses to come clean, or is forced into a confession, that bond of trust is very unlikely to ever be mended.

I don’t know if there are just an awful lot of lying scumbags out there, or whether I seem to attract them. But I am certainly getting good at spotting them, thanks to experience.  How can you tell if someone is lying to you? Well, a lot of it depends whether they are a good liar or not. The person in my mind was atrocious at it!  But some obvious clues are;

Avoidance of eye contact (oh this was a huge give away on this occasion)

Change in tone, pitch or speed of voice

Body language; fidgeting, pacing, turning away or hiding face or mouth behind hands etc.

Contradicting themselves

People usually lie due to one of the following… greed, fear, acceptance or habit.  In this particular circumstance I think the person lied for all four of those reasons. Fear of not being good enough, greed in wanting things a certain way, acceptance by the people around them – to feel worthy or valued by friends. But mostly I think they lied out of habit. This person has obviously been doing this for so long, that they now know no other way of living.  Indeed they seem to have totally deluded themselves as to what is acceptable behaviour, or what can even be believed. In one instance they told a ridiculous lie to cover their tracks, and seemed genuinely shocked when people didn’t believe it.  A chronic liar does not need a reason to lie. They do not do it for any personal gain. They simply enjoy it, or can’t help themselves.  They lie for the sake of lying and often they don’t even realise they are doing it. 

Chronic or pathological lying is not characterised in the mental health diagnostic manual as a mental health problem in itself.  However it is often viewed as a symptom of another mental disorder; for instance narcissism, psychopathy, delusional thinking.  I am no expert, but I read a bit about lying after the situation I was in over a year ago with an absolute nutter of a woman (those who know me will know about this, or those who have read my blog).  There has been some research to suggest that SOME people may have a neurological disorder of their frontal lobe. They have highly developed verbal skills, but their front lobe (which acts as the editor in what we say) get confused. They have difficulty distinguishing between reality as it is, and reality as they would like it to be. So often the reality as they would like it to be comes out instead. 

However, for many people this chronic lying seems to serve no purpose more than to massage their egos, make them look better than they really are, or to make them seem interesting.  They feel they can not live up to the expectation of others and so try to make themselves look more interesting, more caring, more understanding, more innocent, more successful, more powerful (you could write an endless list of mores…) than they actually are.  Ironically I have noticed that their own defence when being caught out and exposed as a liar, is to accuse the exposé as the liar instead. 

I’m sick and tired of dealing with such people. 


Random Dent said...

You're right. We all met such a people. And to be honest I would usually reduce my contact with them to the minimum. You cannot trust them, they are not reliable, they are just a problem. Exposing them leads just to a quarrel. Nothing positive ever comes from exposing them. The easiest way is just to move away from them.

Venus said...

Very true Aleksandra. And I certainly plan to keep such people well out of my life from now on.

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