Everyone tells lies. Whether they’re small half-truths, white lies, completely unintentional or things we’re not even aware of. I think the act of telling lies and the reasons behind them is really interesting.
So, a little while back, I decided to keep track of every time I lied to see how I lie and what I lie about.
I told 19 lies in a week.
Now it should be said that I don’t class myself as a dishonest git, a compulsive liar or deliberately deceptive. In fact my university nickname was ‘Honest Rick’. I genuinely struggle to lie convincingly and, as such, I also really suck at poker and games of ‘Bullshit’.
Mostly if I’ve lied it’s out of politeness, to spare someone’s feelings, avoid coming off rude or, sometimes, to simply get out of something. Sometimes it’s sheer laziness. I think most, if not all of the 19 in that week could be defined as ‘white lies’ but it was an interesting experience. It’s almost easier to lie when you know it’s totally innocent.
Here are some of the lies I recorded:
A man asking me to sign a petition asked if I was on the electoral register – I said I wasn’t (I am)
A friend asked me if I’d be out on the town later. I said I probably would be (I pretty much knew I was going to stay in and binge on Netflix)
A homeless man asked me for change and I said I didn’t have any (I did have change but it was in an awkward pocket, I said no almost instinctively and henceforth I am damned to hell)
I told the hairdresser ‘Perfect!’ when she asked me if my hair was alright (It was way too short and I immediately regretted not going to my usual place)
My colleague made me tea when I’d asked for coffee and when she asked if I’d said tea originally I said ‘yes, spot on.’
A mate told me a joke and I didn’t get it, but I laughed anyway (this is a grey area- not so much a lie but me laughing was putting out a false impression that I both got and subsequently enjoyed the joke)
A group of friends were talking about an old film and saying ‘you know that bit when…’ and I just pretended I’d seen it (It was a classic I felt I should have seen and before I knew what I was doing I’d already blurted, ‘yeah, it’s brilliant.’)
I got invited to something and said ‘sounds good!’ (Inside I was thinking that does not sound good, that sounds like hell.)
A client asked me if the work that was due could be sent over. I said ‘No problems. It’s nearly finished’ (I hadn’t even started the work yet)
There were no major lies or anything I’m not comfortable owning up to. It’s not like I made huge declarations of false love or duped pensioners out of their savings or had a man wrongfully imprisoned.
But I did find that when I stopped and thought ‘actually what you just said or implied wasn’t really true’ that it happened a bit more frequently than I expected. I think the brain almost justifies us lying or distorting the truth in some cases so we don’t consciously interrogate what we’re saying or doing half the time. Other times, I think a slight lie is just plain useful in navigating certain interactions – maybe that’s a slippery slope.
Making myself more aware of it revealed some pretty interesting things about how I act and probably illuminates a rather pathetic need to please people. Maybe I can work on that.
Love Rick x