Why Liars Lie, and Why It's Better To Believe Them

Lies Word CloudIf you've ever caught someone in a lie (and especially if you consider yourself an honest person)  you've probably asked:


(I know I have) 

I Want To Believe

I recently had an interaction with someone making a moderately serious claim based on a lie they were told by a family member. I knew the claim was provably false- endorsed legal documents kind of false- yet the claimant had no interest in the documents, or questioning the information they'd been given.

But why? If someone was lying to you, wouldn't you want to know? If you were claiming something, wouldn't you want to at least check if it's correct? Maybe... but in some ways, it's better to believe the lie.

Praying Hands
After all, liars lie because we want them to (not just to escape punishment, make themselves look good, or get what they want). It's better to be in a relationship with someone who isn't cheating, better to have employees who aren't stealing from us, better to 'know' someone else is in the wrong. Lies are a means to fulfill those expectations, hopes, desires, and beliefs (when they may otherwise impossible).
The problem is that it's a fast food method of filling a need. It's not sustainable, and at worst has the potential to do incredible damage. But chances are you're probably practicing lying, or being lied to every day of your life. Sometimes, it's the only way we know how to fulfill someone's expectations (think "no, you don't look fat in that").


How do you spot a liar? 

(Following this link to Pamela Meyer's TEDtalk is a good start)
  • By listening to what they're saying, opposed to what you want to hear. 
  • Understanding the cues of lying.
  • Investing in the truth. Asking questions, checking information, and getting multiple points of view will make lies obvious when you encounter them.

What can you do about being lied to?

  • Judge people for their track record, NOT for what you want to believe, or solely by what they say.
  • Reward truth and accountability, not dishonesty. People stick with behaviour that works, so don't allow lying to work with you.
  • Determine how you want to respond to dishonesty, follow through, and think about protection for  your personal boundaries.

Sustainable living, to me, isn't just about the environment. It's about looking at all of our decisions and how they perform for the majority over the long term. Lying isn't sustainable. But it's also a decision that's within our power to reject.

When was the last time you caught someone in a lie, and what did you do about it?