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Put up Your Hand if You Ever Lie.

If your hand went up, then we now know you’re a liar. If it didn’t go up then we know you’re an even bigger liar.

When asked the question “are you a liar?” nearly 97% of people answer “no”. When the remaining 3% (self-confessed liars) are subjected to questions calibrating their real, rather than perceived, honesty, they turn out to be, on average, 28 times more honest than the people who claimed they never lie. One of the most prolific liars in history was US president Richard Nixon, who researchers found to have lied on record 837 times on a single day.

Geeze, that’s a lot of fibbing.

Why the interest in lying?

As you know, I’m a student of human behaviour: what we do, when we do it, how we do it, and why we do it. In the field of behavioural psychology there aren’t too many things that interest me more than the subject of dishonesty. Or is it honesty? Anyway, I’m referring to the propensity we humans have to lie. All humans. In my job I listen to (and look at) a lot of people. Since 1987 I have personally completed over 40,000 one-on-one, face-to-face sessions. Close proximity. I get to see the pupils dilate and constrict. The nervous rash appearing on the neck. The facial ticks arise. The postural change. The awkward fidgeting. I notice the change in the pitch of the voice. And the increase in respiration. The lack of eye contact. The shift in emotional state. The defensive body language. The contradictions in their story. The anger. The denial. And often, the tears. Hence, my very absorbent clothing.

Listen to what they’re not saying.

How can we listen to someone who isn’t speaking? Easy. Use our other senses; they will tell us what our ears can’t. We know that communication is about seven percent verbal so it’s only logical to conclude that we will learn more about people (what they think, feel, believe, expect, fear, know, have done) by watching them, than we would by listening to them. Not to say we shouldn’t listen, of course. I’m always more fascinated with what people don’t say because by saying nothing (about a certain matter) they are saying something. People are “speaking” all the time; we just need to learn their language. Pet owners will understand this concept. Once we understand that the verbal stuff is only a minor part of communication and human interaction, our relationships and reality change and our awareness shifts dramatically. If you can’t be bothered researching (and who can?) just watch an episode or three of Lie To Me. Even though it’s ‘only’ a TV show, there’s some pretty cool science and research behind it all. In other words; the truth about liars.

How often we fib

The average person lies 114 times every day of their life. So if you live to be eighty, you’re gonna tell somewhere around 3.3 million fibs over the course of your lifetime. Wowzer!! Can you believe that?

Don’t. I made it up. See how easy that was?

The truth about lies

Of course, it’s virtually impossible to acquire accurate and broadly representative statistics regarding how many times the average person lies each day – being as we’re so predisposed to… well, lying. And anyway, who’s gonna keep count? Nobody wants to be seen as a pathological liar – or any kind of liar – so even when it comes to research, we’ll continue to lie about our lying. After all, who’s gonna be honest about their dishonesty? And there-in lies (pun intended) the challenge; in order to gain reliable data we need to rely on people’s honesty. There’s some irony for you. Take a peek at the following report from the University of Massachusetts:

AMHERST, Mass. – Most people lie in everyday conversation when they are trying to appear likable and competent, according to a study conducted by University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert S. Feldman and published in the most recent Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology. The study, published in the journal’s June issue, found that 60 percent of people lied at least once during a 10-minute conversation and told an average of two to three lies. “People tell a considerable number of lies in everyday conversation. It was a very surprising result. We didn’t expect lying to be such a common part of daily life,” Feldman said. The study also found that lies told by men and women differ in content, though not in quantity. Feldman said the results showed that men do not lie more than women or vice versa, but that men and women lie in different ways. “Women were more likely to lie to make the person they were talking to feel good, while men lied most often to make themselves look better,” Feldman said.

What? Men lie to impress people! I find that hard to believe. BTW, have I told you how much I’m bench pressing lately?

Some Common Fibs

Lie: Yep, I’m on my way now.
Truth: I’ll leave in ten minutes. Or twenty.

Lie: No, your arse is tiny.
Truth: You look like a f**king yak from back here.

Lie: If you don’t go to sleep, Santa won’t come next week.
Truth: He’ll come (won’t he?).

Lie: The dog ate my homework.
Truth: There ain’t no homework. Or dog.

Lie: Yep, this assignment is all my work.
Truth: I am the cut and paste king.

Lie: I was working late.
Truth: I’m a Dirtbag.

Lie: No, I’m busy tonight.
Truth: I don’t like you.

Lie: I’ll get back to you.
Truth: I’ll never contact you.

Lie: Yep, I’ve nearly finished.
Truth: I haven’t started.

Lie: I’m really careful with my food.
Truth: Careful not to let others see how much I eat.

Lie: No, I’ll be fine (sob).
Truth: Can I have some attention and sympathy?

Lying Etiquette

So now we’ve established that you’re part of the Pants-on-Fire Fraternity…

1. What are your lying rules?
2. When is it okay to lie? (an example?)
3. Is it okay to lie if we have noble intentions?
4. Should we ever lie to our kids? (an example?)
5. They say “the truth will set you free” but perhaps sometimes a strategic lie will save someone a lot of pain – what do you think?
6. What about you more spiritual and/or religious (not always the same thing) folk, what are your thoughts?
7. Is deception (not sharing certain information perhaps) the same as a lie?
8. Have someone else’s lies impacted your reality in a big way?
9. Are you aware of your lying?
10. Surely, it’s okay to lie to your girlfriend about her upcoming ’surprise’ birthday party?

I don’t expect you to answer all of the above questions (or any for that matter) but I thought they might be good conversation-starters. Off you go Pinocchio.

And in answer to your question…

Q. Do you ever lie Craig?
A. Only when I’m awake.

Other than that, never.

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