Liar, liar, pants on fire! Who lies and why? This week, Tidbits tells the truth about lies!
• Prevaricator, falsifier, deceiver, perjurer … no matter what you call them, it’s a person who does not tell the truth, one who makes “an intentionally false statement.” Why do we do it? There are many reasons we do it, but almost always it’s for some degree of self-protection, to prevent damage to one’s reputation, and to avoid confronting facts and feelings.
• Research supports the concept that 95% of people cannot go an entire week without telling at least one lie. A “National Geographic” report indicates that 59% of those between 18 and 44 lie between one and five times every day, with 15% lying more than five times a day. A university study reveals that 18.1% of the study’s participants lie every day. These “daily liars” exhibited lower grade point averages, quality of life, and self-esteem. Most tend to be insecure, manipulative, or distrustful.
• While most people tell the occasional lie, compulsive liars tell lies for no apparent reason, when there is no reason to even do so. Also called habitual liars, they lie without premeditation, making things up on the spot. The lies are frequently ridiculous and impossible to believe, yet the liar is adamant they are true. Compulsive liars are pretty easy to spot – they avoid eye contact, often break out in a sweat, and have difficulty staying focused while talking. They might move things around on the table or move farther away from the person they’re talking to. They frequently ramble on and then move ahead abruptly to change the subject. Their stories don’t usually add up, and when they forget their first lie, they improvise a new one in its place. These liars actually feel uncomfortable telling the truth! Compulsive lying is typically a symptom of a personality disorder.
• Similarly, “prolific” liars are prone to believing that lying is acceptable in some circumstances, but not out of concern for others, rather for their own self-interest. Research indicates that they tell about 19 lies for every one lie told by the average person.
• While you can often spot the compulsive liar’s falsehoods, it’s not so easy with a pathological liar. They are excellent liars because they do it regularly, making it difficult to distinguish the truth from their lies. They are typically charming and likeable folks, trying to make themselves the center of attention. Many times, they don’t even realize that what they say isn’t true, and even believe the lie themselves. These manipulative prevaricators will admit their lies only when their statements are proven false, and have no remorse or guilt after being caught. The lying begins when the person is young and can continue indefinitely in every area of life. The medical term for pathological lying is “pseudologia fantastica.”
• Those with a narcissistic personality tell lies to boost their image, inventing impressive, far-fetched stories centered around themselves as heroes. Sometimes their story is based on truth, but then is wildly embellished.
• Some people tell “white lies,” which are often to make another person feel better, or to avoid hurting their feelings, when the truth might be offensive. What’s the correct response to “Do these pants make me look fat?” White liars might mix the truth and some tact with the lie to prevent damage to another’s emotions.
• The good news is that most people are honest and tell a lie only occasionally, and when they do, they feel guilty about it, admit it, and beg forgiveness. When confronted with the lie, they are truly sorry and desire to make things right and instigate change in their lives.