Most lies aren’t meant to be hurtful to others; rather, they’re meant to help the one doing the fibbing. These are the six top ways people lie.
Lying to Save Face
What it sounds like: “Gosh, I never got the shower invitation!” “Sorry I’m late, but there was a huge pileup on the freeway.”
Why people do it: For self-preservation. While it may be instinctual, people who frequently cover up innocent errors may start to feel as if they have permission to be irresponsible. What’s more, it can become grueling for them to keep track of those deceptions. (“Now, why did I tell her I couldn’t cochair that event?”) Eventually those lies hinder people from having close connections, says Smith. “Of course, there are relationships in which it doesn’t matter as much,” he says.
Lying to Make Oneself Feel Better
What it sounds like: “Eating my kids’ French fries doesn’t count.” “I’ll charge this stuff now because I’m going to pay off the credit-card bill as soon as I get my bonus.” “I never watch television.”
Lying to Be Nice
What it sounds like: “That dress looks fantastic on you.” “This is the best meat loaf I’ve ever tasted.”
Why people do it: In some cases, the little white lie is altruistic, says Smith, but when used excessively, it can make interactions with people less authentic. At its worst, others may feel that a person isn’t being genuine or trustworthy.
Lying to Avoid Confrontation
What it sounds like: “That’s a wonderful idea, Mom. I’ll make sure to get to the airport three hours before my flight.” “You’re doing a great job, but we can’t afford a housekeeper anymore.”
Why people do it: A believable excuse may help someone avoid an uncomfortable talk or keep that person from feeling guilty. But relying on nonconfrontation too often eventually does relationships―both personal and professional―a disservice. With people to whom one is deeply tied, it’s important to remember that “closeness is not always pleasant, and that interpersonal dealings, by their very nature, have highs and lows,” says Smith. “When you try to avoid the lows at all cost, it can have an overall deadening effect on these connections.”
Lying to Get One’s Way
What it sounds like: “I won’t be at work today. I caught that bug that’s going around.” “Officer, my speedometer must be broken.”
Why people do it: For personal gain. But when a lie like this is uncovered, the recipient is unlikely to be charitable. And the more hurtful the lie is to the person on the receiving end, the less it’s likely to be forgiven. “When getting what a person wants drives his every word and action, he will not earn people’s trust or love,” says Weiner.
Lying to Shift Blame
What it sounds like: “It’s my boss’s decision, not mine.” “My husband never told me you called.”
Why people do it: “To effectively give away power and control,” says Smith. “When done habitually, this can diminish a person’s ability to deal with life’s bigger problems.” When someone constantly saddles other people with his responsibilities, others can grow resentful of carrying this burden. Also, eternally passing the buck is downright exhausting. The deceiver keeps fielding requests but is only postponing the inevitable.