How to Stop Lying: 10 Steps for Overcoming the Habit of Lying14 min read

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In the quest to be a better person, one of the greatest challenges you might face is telling the truth no matter how hard and avoiding dishonesty no matter how easy it may seem. 

Lying is a ubiquitous feature of humanity – it is something that is almost hardwired into all of us. 

To investigate how much people lie, in 2002, Professor Robert Feldman and his team conducted a study involving 121 people, who were observed during the course of a 10-minute conversation. To their surprise, they found that 60% of the participants told at least one lie during the brief conversation. 

Most of the lies were about trivial things, such as their age, weight, or job title. However, some participants lied about more serious matters, such as their relationships or their past experiences.

Other researchers also replicated the study, and they all suggest that lying is a more common behaviour than we might think. 

So, what exactly is lying, and why is it so hard to stay honest?

What Is Lying?

Lying is a statement (or act) that is made with the intention to deceive, mislead, or conceal the truth. You can lie intentionally or unintentionally. For example, you might tell someone that you didn’t cheat on a test, even though you know you at one point spied on someone’s answers. This sort of lie comes easy because it can be a matter of simply nodding.

It is true, lying can be a learned behaviour, and it can be a sign of immaturity or a lack of respect. Immaturity in the sense that it is a way of avoiding responsibility and conflict. Disrespect because it shows that you do not value/respect the other person’s time, trust, or feelings. 

It is no surprise that children are most likely to lie once they start understanding the concepts of reward and punishment – which typically happens between the ages of 3 and 7 – though their lies are usually obvious. 

Without proper upbringing, the habit easily waxes stronger, so that during teen ages, lies become harder to detect. However, as most people mature and begin to see how immature and disrespectful lying is, they usually tone it down (especially when it has burnt them before).

From the facade that is put up on social media, the fake smiles and laughter in social interactions, the silence when speaking is necessary, the willful ignorance, and the elaborate stunts and fashion put up at events people subtly try to modify or avoid the truth. 

Most adults would avoid outright or harmful lies, but they would nonetheless remain mildly dishonest in their speech and deeds. This article aims to help you stop lying, or at least minimize it as much as possible.

“The man who lies to himself and believes his own lies becomes unable to distinguish between truth and falsehood and ultimately loses all respect for himself and for others.”

– Fyodor Dostoevsky

Why You Lie So Much?

According to research, disinhibited (or impulsive) and antagonistic (or aggressive) people are more prone to lie than any other group of people. Interestingly, those are also the two key characteristics of psychopathy. In other words, people with psychopathic tendencies find it easier to lie than others.

Yet, it is people with less emotional stability that go on to lie on and on to conceal information or to advance their own interests. If that sounds like narcissism, that’s because it is. Be it the grandiose narcissist, or the vulnerable narcissist, people who obsess about how they are seen or treated often try to control appearances by lying.

Even if you’re not a Pathological liar, or have a narcissistic personality disorder, there are still many reasons why you may lie. Below are a few possible explanations:

  • You may have developed the habit of lying as a way of coping with stress or anxiety: For example, if you were often punished for telling the truth when you were a kid, you may have learned to lie as a way of avoiding punishment.
  • You may have learned the habit from family and friends: We are social beings, so it is natural to learn to lie if you grew up in a household where lying was common, or find yourself in a circle where lying is the order of the day.
  • You may be trying to protect yourself or someone else: For example, you might lie about/deny a crime you or your loved one committed, to avoid getting imprisoned.
  • You may also lie to get something you want: This could be money, opportunity, attention, respect, etcetera. It is common for people to lie about their age and qualifications in order to get a job. It is also common to see people lie to get a date or have sex with someone they like.

Whatever the case, lying seldom comes from a good place, and it rarely builds good things. Even when people try to justify their lies by saying they are trying to prevent harm, it is often harm that was brought about by their own wrong actions or shortcomings. 

It is highly unlikely that you will find yourself in a situation where you’ll need to lie to a deranged murderer to protect your loved one (in which case lying is permissible under the moral/ethical dilemma).

“Tell the truth – Or at least don’t lie.”

– Dr Jordan B. Peterson

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Effects: How Does Lying Affect You?

Lying too much can harm you in so many unexpected ways. For example, lying could:

Damage to your relationships

When you lie to people, it erodes trust and makes it difficult to maintain an intimate relationship with them. This is because when you lie to someone, you’re essentially saying that you do not respect or trust them enough to tell them the truth. This can make the other person feel betrayed and hurt. 

Hamper your ability to connect: 

When you lie, you also hear your lies which makes you distrustful of other people’s words and actions. So that even if the other person believed your lies, you may still remain distant and unable to connect with them on a deeper level because you are either afraid they will one day find out, or that they are also lying about something.

Damage to your self-esteem: 

Lying can make you feel guilty and ashamed, and it can damage your self-esteem. If you often lie – which means you usually run away from conflicts or repercussions – you will not be able to see yourself as reliable or capable of handling pressure or uncertainties. You may even grow to detest yourself in some sense because of your two-facedness.

Increase the weight of repercussions: 

The more you lie, the more likely you are to get caught. And, if you are caught lying, not only will you be punished for your sins, but you will also be punished for trying to cover them. The punishment can come in the form of being disliked, getting fired, or facing criminal charges. It can also be in the form of you feeling greater embarrassment, shame, and regret for yourself and your deeds.

Increase stress, confusion and anxiety: 

Big fat lies place an enormous burden on you as fear of being found out lurks and hovers around. And, if you lie on a regular basis, it can become difficult to keep track of your lies. All these may lead to stress, confusion, and anxiety as you worry about all that could go wrong. Besides, lying activates the amygdala – a part of the brain involved in fear and anxiety – leading to a hard-to-shake feeling of anxiety and guilt.

Make it more difficult to learn from your mistakes: 

When you lie and get away with it, you give yourself no reason not to repeat the mistake that led to the need to lie. The result is that you never get to learn from your mistakes, which can make you more likely to repeat them and continue lying in the future.

The dangers of lying too much are real and can have a significant impact on your life. The problem is, since lying saves you from the immediate and easily observable consequences of your actions, it can feel safe and even rewarding. However, upon close examination, all the subtle ways lying affects you are much more dire.

How To Stop The Habit of Lying:

Lying can be a difficult habit to break, but it is possible with time and effort. Here are some tips on how to stop lying:

Acknowledge you lie often: 

The first step in overcoming your habit of lying is telling the truth about your habit. Admit to yourself that you have a problem and that you want to change. Then label lying a bad habit. This will help you stay aware of it so that you can pause when the urge comes.

Identify the reasons why you lie: 

Think of circumstances where you’ve caught yourself conjuring up lies. What were you trying to achieve by lying? Are you trying to avoid punishment, get something you want, or protect yourself from harm? Once you know why you lie, you can start to address the underlying issues.

Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings: 

Pay attention to the emotions that accompany lying. For example, it could be nervousness and increased heart rate. Once you are aware of these signs, you can start to develop strategies for circumventing and stopping the impending lie. Perhaps, you can learn to control your breath and calm yourself when tense.

Be honest with others: 

If you are serious about stopping lying, you need to be honest with the people in your life. Tell them that you have a problem and that you are working on it. It is also okay to pause midway in a sentence, admit you were about to tell a lie, and then proceed to tell the truth. When you are honest with people this way, it will help them to understand and support you.

Avoid situations where you are likely to lie: 

If you know that you are more likely to lie in certain situations, try to avoid those situations. For example, if you usually feel pressure to lie about your schedule or health when it’s time for a date, then don’t say yes to the proposal.

Build your self-esteem: 

You are more likely to lie to protect yourself from feeling inadequate or insecure if you have low self-esteem. For example, you may lie about being able to code because you don’t want to be seen as useless. Instead, work on building your self-esteem by developing your skills, and then focusing on your strengths and accomplishments.

Change your environment:

If you find that your family or friends often lie, and that habit is rubbing off on you, you might want to distance yourself from them. Evil communication corrupts good manners. Instead, try to find communities and friends who value honesty and encourage you to tell the truth, even when it’s difficult.

Learn to say no: 

If you are asked to commit to something you know you are not going to do, learn to say no. For example, don’t agree to buy toys for kids or chocolates for a colleague if you know you don’t have the money, time, energy, or desire.

Take responsibility for your actions: 

If you did something wrong, learn to bear the consequences. Take responsibility for your actions. For example, if you broke a vase, admit to it. The person may be mad and may even ask you to replace it, but your honesty will save you from guilt, help you learn to be more careful, and win you respect.

Get help from a therapist: 

If you find your habit of lying is compulsive and uncontrollable, consider getting help from a therapist. A therapist can help you to understand the underlying issues and develop strategies for stopping them.

It takes time to break the habit of lying. You may slip up sometimes, but don’t be discouraged. Remember you can always pause, apologise for the lie, and then say the truth instead. Give yourself time, you will eventually conquer the habit and stop lying for good.

Frequently Asked Questions: 

What Are The Types and Classification of Lies:

There are many different ways to classify lies, but some of the most common include:

By Color:

  • White lies: These are small, harmless lies that are told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or to make a situation easier. For example, you might tell your girlfriend you like her makeup, even if you don’t.
  • Grey lies: These are lies that are not as clear-cut as white lies. They may be told for personal gain or to avoid conflict. For example, you might slightly increase the price you paid for a shoe when asked about it in a social setting.
  • Black lies: These are lies that are told with the intent to deceive or harm someone. For example, you might tell someone you are sick so they send you money or accuse them of stealing your property despite knowing they are innocent.

By Nature:

  • Pathological lies: These are lies that are told compulsively, even when there is no clear benefit to lying. Pathological liars often have a personality disorder that makes them unable, to tell the truth. For example, when you tell someone you met on the bus that you were the best-graduating student in your department, even though you may never get to see them ever again.
  • Fabricated lies: These are lies that are completely made up. Fabricated lies are often told by children or by people who are trying to create a false identity. For example, when you tell someone you once saw an angel or celebrity and they gave you a peck.
  • Bluffing lies: These are lies that are told to deceive someone in a game or competition. Bluffing lies are often used in poker or other games of chance. For example, telling someone you have the triangle in a game of Whot when you really have a circle.

By Level or Degree

  • Lies of omission: These are lies that are told by withholding information. For example, you might not mention to your new partner that you’re still texting your ex.
  • Lies of commission: These are lies that are told by actively stating something that is not true. For example, you might tell your partner that you’re going to stop texting your ex, but you have no intention to stop.
  • Lies of exaggeration: These are lies that are told by making something seem more important or significant than it really is. For example, you might tell your friends that your partner is very rich and pretty, even though they are average in looks and money.
  • Lies of minimization: These are lies that are told by making something seem less important or significant than it really is. For example, you might tell your partner you don’t think much about your ex, even though you can’t stop thinking of them.

It is important to note that these are just some of the many different ways to classify lies. There is no one “right” way to classify lies, and the best way to classify a lie may depend on the specific situation.

If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section. I also look forward to hearing what you think about this post. Thanks.

I enjoy writing long-form SEO content for self-help and personal development blogs. I can also do simple graphics design and copywriting. I’m an author, coach, logician, introvert, and storyteller. I love simplicity.

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