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Why Lying Becomes Second Nature for Some People

Why Lying Becomes Second Nature for Some People

We all occasionally lie. Most of the time, it’s a small lie that doesn’t have much of an effect, and sometimes it’s a big lie that can end up hurting you or others in some way. However, we all know that lying, in general, isn’t a good thing to do, and we try not to make it a habit. But for some people, lying becomes second nature or even a way of life.

You might have come across a compulsive liar at some point in your life. Maybe they were a work colleague or a friend or even a partner. Compulsive lying, also known as pseudologia fantastica, pathological lying, and mythomania, describes a condition in which an individual lies habitually and often for no reason at all.[1]

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Not only do compulsive liars bend the truth about issues large and small, they take comfort in it. Lying feels right to a compulsive liar. Telling the truth, on the other hand, is difficult and uncomfortable [2] , so lying becomes an addiction.

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What’s Distinctive of a Compulsive Liar

  • They lie frequently, about anything. Even something that makes no difference whether they lie about it or not.
  • They seek attention. They might use lies as a way to get attention.
  • Their stories always change. This is because they can’t remember all the lies they’ve told.
  • They refuse to admit they’re lying when confronted, even when it has been proven they are. They also may become angry when caught lying [3] .
  • Sometimes you can identify a compulsive liar by their body language. They may not be able to look you in the eye when lying, they could be fidgety, they could have closed off body language, like keeping their arms crossed, and they might even start to sweat. However, body language is not a reliable way of identifying a compulsive liar because, if they’re an experienced liar, they may not do any of these things.

If you’ve had experience with a compulsive liar, you were probably puzzled at why they felt the need to lie so much.

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The Secret Behind the Rise of Every Compulsive Liar

  • Admiration and Popularity. They want rewards and admiration without actually working for it. They want to gain attention and popularity. The person usually has feelings of low self esteem and inadequacy, and admiration and popularity is craved because it temporarily boosts their self esteem and makes them feel less inadequate. So they tell lies to help feed that craving.
  • Control and Manipulation. They use lies to gain control where they normally wouldn’t have control and to manipulate others around them into doing what they want. The lying continues because of the thrill of getting away with the manipulation or seeing that their attempt to gain control worked. They might also need to keep lying to keep the control and manipulation going.
  • Low Self Esteem. The underlying reason a person might want admiration and popularity or to gain control is usually because of low self esteem. They feel down about themselves so they lie or make up stories in order to make themselves look better to other people. They are constantly afraid that they will be rejected by people so they exaggerate their good qualities or make up things about themselves that they think will make them look good to others.
  • Pathological Lying. Although compulsive lying and pathological lying are often used interchangeably, sometimes pathological lying is viewed as a slightly different disorder. The difference between the two is that a pathological liar will lie for absolutely no reason, and do so very convincingly [4] . If a person does not lie because of low self esteem, or in order to gain popularity, admiration, control or manipulation, then they might be diagnosed as a pathological liar, rather than a compulsive liar. A pathological liar is also often a sociopath who lacks empathy, and they lie just because they can.

However, both compulsive lying and pathological lying are usually a symptom of a bigger issue, such as:

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  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Addiction or Substance Abuse
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Sociopathy

Compulsive liars can be hurtful to people around them, especially those who are close to them, like friends and partners. Because they can be manipulative and controlling, they often manipulate the emotions of those who care about them. If the lying is a symptom of a bigger disorder, they might lack empathy so they cannot see how their lies are hurtful and destructive. They could be serial cheaters or even mentally and emotionally abusive. Above all, they are untrustworthy.

How to Win the Game with Compulsive Liar

  • Make sure they are actually a compulsive liar. Sometimes people lie but that doesn’t always make them a compulsive liar. In order for someone to be a compulsive liar their lies have to be habitual and excessive. For example, a friend going through financial problems but telling you things are fine because they don’t want you to know, is not compulsive lying. A friend who constantly tells you unnecessary stories, which you often find out are untrue, might be a compulsive liar.
  • Try to catch them out in a lie. Pay attention to their story. Stop them when they tell an obvious lie by asking them how what they’re saying could be true. Question them about small contradictions or ask them for specific details when they’re telling a story. This will make them uncomfortable and they might try to change the subject.
  • Reassure them. If they are a someone close to you, remember that they are compulsive lying because they likely have self esteem or other issues. Reassure them that you like them for who they are and that they don’t need to impress you. You can also tell them about your own insecurities, letting them know that they aren’t the only ones who feel this way.
  • Confront them about their lies. – Make sure that you have proof that they are lying before you go to confront them.Be tactful in the way you confront them as they may get angry or defensive. A compulsive liar might also unconsciously believe their lies, so help them to see the truth instead of outright accusing them of lying. Suggest professional help, let them know that you want to help and that you will support them.
  • Stay away from them. A compulsive liar might be unwilling to change or seek help. If that is the case, you will need to decide whether or not you want to stay in their lives and deal with their lies. If it is a person you are not close to or invested in, stay away from them and don’t encourage their stories.
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Reference

[1] GoodTherapy: Compulsive Lying
[2] TruthAboutDeception: Compulsive Lying
[3] WikiHow: 3 Ways to Spot a Pathological Liar
[4] LoveToKnow: Compulsive Lying Disorder

More by this author

Sheena Vincent

Sheena is a passionate writer who shares communication and life tips on Lifehack.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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