How To Get A Liar To Stop Lying

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It’s impossible to expect someone to make it through their whole lives without telling a single lie. Especially when we’re kids, and we so strongly believe in our fantastical convictions, there are lies within each of us just waiting to be told.

A few lies do not a bad person make, but when those infrequent, sometimes necessary lies bloom into a common occurrence, you know a problem has begun.

Thankfully, new research shows there may just be a method to get people to fight their urge to lie and start embracing honesty.

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To Tell You The Truth…

There are very, very few situations in which lying is ever okay. That doesn’t seem to stop people though, as all of us are guilty of lying at some point or another. Those who lie often will think of some excuse that justifies their habit, but we all know in our hearts that it’s not good of us.

The word 'Lies' as it appears in a dictionary.
Getty Images via Canva Pro
Getty Images via Canva Pro

But still, we lie. We’ve likely all known someone who lies a lot, so much so it’s a natural instinct for them with no regard as to how it hurts those around them. It’s a chronic habit that’s only grown worse.

A Growing Problem

This can become especially problematic if you’re close to this person in any way. If they’re a friend, a family member, or even a coworker you speak to frequently, how can you ever know if they’re lying to you? How are you meant to trust anything they say?

A man half-hidden among the leaves of a bush.
Pexels / Lisa Fotios via Canva Pro
Pexels / Lisa Fotios via Canva Pro

Especially since research suggests that the occasional lie can eventually spiral into patterns of trickery and deception. You never know when a compulsive liar has turned that corner and fallen in moral standing.

New Findings

So, what are you to do? You can try to confront them, but it often takes more than that for someone to drop the pattern of constant lying.

A piece of paper on a table that reads,
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

Thankfully, further research has been conducted, and we may have found a reliable way to turn people away from lying.

This information was found in a new paper published by the University of Sydney’s Demetris Christodoulou and colleagues in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. To look at a population of liars, they addressed those guilty of insurance fraud.

Comparable Contexts

That may sound like a big jump from a social liar you might have in your life, but the core concepts are shockingly similar.

Someone holding a half-finished cigarette over an ash tray.
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Envato Elements

So, Christodoulou et al. specifically looked at those who lie about their smoking habits when applying for a new policy, trying to secure a lower insurance rate.

They’ll do this because, for one, they think they can get away with it. It’s easy to say you don’t smoke when filling out an online form, for example. They also do this because it’s easily justifiable to themselves that they’re not morally inferior for lying in this specific context.

They Have Their Reasons

That type of lie has little psychological cost on their “moral self-image,” the term Christodoulou et al. uses when discussing how liars rationalize dishonest behavior. Whenever someone lies, their moral self-image battles against their desire for gain. They’ll start creating excuses if they feel like their moral self-image is losing.

Two hands with locked pinkies in a Pinky Promise.
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Envato Elements

So, in this insurance context, liars will convince themselves that lying about smoking is a “rational decision” because who wouldn’t want to save money? Insurance companies are big enough that they can afford to give one person a lower rate, right? They’ll say these companies are greedy too, that they deserve to be tricked out of some of their cash.

The Humanization Effect

By telling themselves these things, these people reach Consequence Attenuation, which is the tendency for liars to see their lying as having no negative impact.

A woman leaning forward on a table, head in her hands, appearing frustrated.
Pexels / Karolina Grabowska via Canva Pro
Pexels / Karolina Grabowska via Canva Pro

In order to change lying behaviors, the study tackled the different ways to have someone get over Consequence Attenuation.

The first tactic was to point out how their lies affect others. Again in the insurance example, they could point out that by lying about their own behaviors, they could play a part in increased premiums for everyone, including fully honest customers.

There was also the angle of playing up the insurance company as charitable and good-natured, making the liar feel bad about who they were lying to.

Notable Improvements

So, they ran those two methods of lie deterrence in separate experiments to see how effectively they got someone to stop themselves from fibbing.

A notebook with
Unsplash / Annie Spratt
Unsplash / Annie Spratt

The standard rate for people going back and reconsidering their lie was at 2.97%. When pointing out how their actions would harm others, it climbed to 3.77%. Then, when making them feel guilt over who they were lying to, it rose again to 4.35%.

So, when using these tactics, there was a 46% increase in lie revision when you convince the liar that the person/entity they’re lying to doesn’t deserve it.

How To Apply It In Your Life

It’s great that those worked in that study, but how do we really use this insight in our own interactions with liars?

Someone crossing their fingers behind their back.
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Envato Elements

Using their moral self-image in order to encourage change is what’s needed, and there are ways to do so without lying yourself.

First, think of ways you can change how they view who they’re lying to. If they think that the people/group/whatever it is they’re lying to as a faceless form, that feeling of guilt won’t trigger. By constantly reminding them that they’re lying to real human people who did nothing to deserve it, there’s a chance it could sway them to do otherwise. They need to imagine that person and picture how they would feel if they found out they were lied to.

Everyone Is Connected

You can also try to get them to change their view of people structurally. Their loved ones only want to help them, but by lying to them repeatedly, they’re discrediting all the care and attention those loved ones have provided for them over the years.

A man looking out through a large, circular grate with the negative overlay of a hand on top.
Getty Images via Canva Pro
Getty Images via Canva Pro

By thinking of these people, of all people, as part of a greater network who are only seeking to help the liar, they may begin to shift their perspective and realize there’s next to no good circumstance in which a lie is called for.

A Tough Decision

It’s tough, though. Habits are hard to break, especially bad ones, and it’s not going to be an easy journey to try and shake someone of their lying ways. However, if you’re willing to dedicate yourself to it (and perhaps get some other people involved if they, too, are worried about this person’s issue), you could see amazing results.

Couple standing back-to-back, holding mobile phones. Man looking over his shoulder at his girlfriend trying to see what she is texting and who she is messaging.
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Envato Elements

It’s also important to remember that this person may never see the harm in their ways. They might never genuinely understand how their actions hurt people, or they might refuse to acknowledge the human element of it all and how they cause pain.

If that’s the case, it might be time to reevaluate your relationship with this person. After all, is that really someone you want to be friends with?

If you’re looking for more information on your life and your individual sign, then you’ll need your own zodiac reading. We’re each on our own unique path and what some struggle with this season, might not be applicable to you too.

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Daniel Mitchell-Benoit

Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.

He can’t wait to share his insights with a[…]