THE UNRELIABLE GUIDE TO… LYINGAlmost everyone tells a least one lie a day. This is because lying has a huge range of purposes: flattery, self-defence, kindness, malevolence, boredom, survival, self-aggrandisement, and so on. The list of why we lie is endless and we start young. A child first lies between two and five years of age, and linguistically adept children tend to lie the earliest.
Learning to lie is a natural stage in child development and, even though we all tell our kids not to lie, lying is a social necessity. But if we are all lying our socks off, how can we ever trust anyone?
The Unreliable Guide has some tips on tricks on how to tell a fib or spot a fraud…
SPOTTING A LIAR
We all lie, but some of us lie much more than others and studies have shown teenagers are the biggest liars. Researcher Timothy R. Levine suggests that 74 per cent of 13 to 17 year-olds lie, every day, as opposed to 44 per cent of 60 to 77 year-olds. But how do we spot a liar? Truth is, we don’t really know. Previously trusted signifiers – rubbing one’s nose, scratching an ear, looking up, avoiding eye contact – have now been proven false. Apparently it’s microsecond reflexes in the face that indicate deceit and the only way to spot these is to not look for them. We notice with our subconscious mind, so if you feel like a person is lying just trust your gut. You’re probably right.
BIG LIES, LITTLE LIES, WHITE LIES, BLACK LIES
Not all lies are made equal. A ‘white’ lie is the kind we tell to be socially polite, and without these civilisation would crumble. “Pleased to meet you” is often the very first lie you tell someone, but it’s a necessary social lubricant. ‘Little’ lies, or fibs, like “I didn’t eat all the cake”, are irritating, but ‘big’ lies, like “I didn’t sleep with mother”, are more damaging because they have the potential to deeply hurt others. The worst lies, ‘black’ lies, deliberately intend to denigrate others, like “She’s the one who did it…” Watch out for people who use this malicious type of lie; they are evil and their lies have blackened their souls.
LYING TO YOURSELF
Philosopher Jean Paul Satre termed lying to one’s self ‘bad faith’, but sometimes it feels essential for our mental health. We tell ourselves that the awful job will lead to better things. We convince ourselves that he/she really loves us. We pretend we are a size medium when it’s clear we are an extra large. Be careful of these lies; fooling yourself is okay in the short term, but you may lie yourself into a mediocrity you don’t deserve.
THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH IS ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE
People who tell the absolute truth, all the time, are freaks. If you start giving out your actual opinion without the slightest gloss of a lie you really won’t be popular. We have to lie to be polite – “Yes, the yak soup was delicious, thank you” – and to be kind – “No, no, your bum looks great in those hot pants”. And remember, there is no such thing as truth anyway; it’s just your subjective perception of reality.
Finally, the Unreliable Guide suggests that we always aim for kindness rather than the pure and simple truth, for the truth, as Oscar Wilde once said, “is rarely pure and never simple”.