It’s also important to understand that some individuals who pathologically lie also suffer from certain disorders or have been diagnosed with a myriad of diagnoses such as conduct disorder (CD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), or ADHD (i.e., some youths with this diagnosis also have ODD or antisocial traits that contribute to frequent lying) for children and adolescents. For adults, the diagnosis might include but are not limited to borderline personality disorder (BPD), histrionic personality disorder (HPD), antisocial personality disorder (i.e., sociopathy), and some psychotic disorders.
There are certainly ways to protect yourself from a destructive person who sends whirlpools of confusion into your life. You should take every lie seriously and strive to remember:
- Avoid engaging the pathological liar: If you sense that you are being lied to, perhaps you are. We all have an “internal compass” that signals trouble or peace, truth or fiction. Trust that. There are situations in which you might feel someone is being untrue but later find out they were telling the truth. But in many cases we, as humans, are good barometers. If you sense that someone is lying to you, don’t make the person feel comfortable by agreeing, nodding, or laughing about it. A blank stare might do the trick in shutting down the lie.
- Call them out: Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to point out that something isn’t adding up. You could most certainly put it on yourself by saying “for some reason, I am confused. Can you explain that to me again?” In counseling sessions the use of confrontation can be powerful if used appropriately and with the right amount of tact. Confrontation does not mean creating an argument but creating an acknowledgement that information isn’t adding up. For example, a confrontation might include you stating “…that’s not what I see happening because I spoke with the Principal and he showed me documentation that you skipped school at 2:00pm on Monday.” Confrontation is using facts to undercut the lie.
- Play “stupid” : I use this technique quite a bit in sessions with adolescents and young children. If I want a youth to open up or I’m looking to build rapport, I make statements such as “…that’s not what I was told, can you help me understand because I’m a bit confused…as always?” Individuals who tend to lie are usually seeking some sort of power over others. If you are able to take a step back and appear unassuming, you can actually become the person “on top” and coax the individual into explaining things so you can evaluate it. You’re not trying to catch the person in a lie per se, but to clarify information in a nonconfrontational manner.
- Don’t believe anything until you confirm it: Someone with a track record of lying behaviors should never be believed at face value. The moment you begin to appear as if you believe what the pathological liar is saying, they will run with it. Any kind of approval or trust the pathological liar can sense makes them feel powerful and energized to continue the behavior. It’s always good, when speaking to someone who frequently lies, to remain neutral, detached, and focused. You should weigh everything you are being told against the facts.
- Don’t argue or fight with the pathological liar: It’s not worth your energy to argue with someone who lives in a fantasy or psychologically unstable word. Most liars lack an identity and struggle with feelings of insecurity and abandonment. Other pathological liars are simply sociopathic and overly confident. Either way, don’t argue or get into a confrontation with the liar because they will use circular arguing, demean you, and possibly create more lies to use in the future (possibly against you).You will never get to the truth, even with the use of intimidation. In some cases, you might get only half of the truth. It’s best to step back, work around the pathological liar, and keeping a safe distance.
Do you know someone who tends to lie frequently about any and everything? Have you caught them in a lie or two and wonder why they continue to lie? If so, you are obviously dealing with a pathological liar. What most people fail…