Strategies for Detecting and Responding to Lying

Lying is present in many human relationships. From simple omission to fabrication, it can be more or less impactful and that is why it is a frequent dramatic spring in books or series. If we all have the ability to lie, we do not necessarily do it for the same reasons. Cultural or family conditioning, fear of hurting or disappointing, lure of gain or profit, what makes the seriousness of the lie is less linked to what is concealed than to the people who are its victims.

But then how to deal with lying when it is a cause of suffering? What to do with a child who lies? How to detect lies in adults? How to confuse his interlocutor? And how do you position yourself against the unrepentant liar? This article will give you answers to all these questions. Wooden cross, iron cross. If I lie…

Lying: a strategy inherited from childhood

The strategy of lying is an apprenticeship that we do very early. From two years old and up to 5 or 6 years old, a child who lies is not aware of the notions of good or evil. Nor does he distinguish the real from the imaginary. He can lie for fun and sometimes without really realizing it. After age 6, a child who still lies on a regular basis probably does so on purpose. Lying is an integral part of child development. If this is not a behavior that should be encouraged, it is not pathological for all that.

Why is the child lying?

The child can lie for at least three reasons:

  • He can by lying seek to avoid sanctions, punishments, reprimands, threats…
  • The child can also distort reality to make it or himself more interesting, to play or to attract attention.
  • Finally, more rarely, he can lie aggressively, with the aim of harming, for the sake of revenge for example.

Do not trivialize or demonize the lie

For the child’s own good, it is better to avoid trivializing his recurring lies. By letting him do it, we take the risk of seeing him make it a privileged mode of communication. Conversely, by demonizing lies and blaming your child, you run the risk of reinforcing his attitude and weakening his level of self-confidence. It’s about not blaming him for the lie but also for the behaviors he tried to hide. If he feels confident, loved unconditionally for who he is (not for what he does) he will be less inclined to hide the truth.

Remind your child that he is “ok”, including his mistakes. You will strengthen the relationship of trust. A child who accidentally knocks over and breaks a glass will become more confident in their abilities if they are calmly taught how to clean, fix and find a solution, rather than being blamed and punished by labeling them “clumsy”. Moreover, he is all the more encouraged to tell the truth when his errors are admitted.


Talk with your child to try to understand his motivations for lying. If he tries to avoid the sanction or the pressure, as we have just seen, you can correct the situation. If he seeks to magnify the ordinary, to embellish certain stories, help him to separate things between his wishes and reality. You can tell him that his dreams are good and encourage him to develop his imagination in dedicated activities. If you suspect that your child is trying to get your attention by lying, give yourself quality time with him. And in any case, take advantage of every opportunity to remind him of your values.

Remembering your values ​​in the face of lies

Trust is the value most undermined in lying. Explain to your child why the need for trust is important to you. You can even tell her what might happen if trust no longer exists in your relationship. Starting from yourself and your need is a good way to avoid blame and reproach. Please note that this is not about creating blackmail. It’s about highlighting the evolution of the relationship and what touches you in it. Not to tell the child that if he continues, he will be deprived of dessert. Otherwise you would recreate harmful pressure conditions for his own confidence.

And be exemplary

The lie of the child leads us to question our own behavior. Our way of blaming or accepting error, as we have seen, but also our own relationship to reality. If we lie to the child for the sake of simplicity and comfort, we give him a kind of bond to do the same. It can sometimes seem tempting to tell a little lie to get what you want from your child. Who has never been tempted to say that there are no more cakes, while hiding them behind tin cans?

We know, however, that the child’s understanding will be strengthened if we take the time to explain to him that it is not the time, because we are afraid that he will no longer be hungry when it comes time to eat and that is not good for his health. It is a job for the future. Obviously, this takes time and energy. This is the parent’s role. But none of us are perfect. Who hasn’t told a friend on the phone that they couldn’t see it when they just didn’t want to? Children have ears and pick up a lot more things than we imagine. Pay attention to your own authenticity. You have the right to want to be alone and to stay quietly at home, and to say so.

Remember the first of the 4 Toltec agreements: “Let your word be impeccable”. I invite you to read or reread Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, the 4 Toltec agreements. You can also pass this knowledge on to your child. Make it fun and interesting for him.

Sadly, beyond childhood, many adults continue to lie. How to deal with the lies of the other adult?

Mind reading is not a lie detector

There is no universal Truth. There are as many truths as there are people to share them. Reality is not directly accessible to us. Indeed, what we perceive of the world is filtered by our senses, but also by our values ​​and our beliefs. We can only forge what is called our representation of the world. Everyone has a unique representation of the world and everyone has their own personal dictionary of what abstract words represent. Mind reading consists of trying to guess, even to convince oneself of what is going on in the other person’s head.

It is a more or less fine interpretation of a behavior, a gesture, a remark, a silence but which most often falls short of the mark because it is marked by personal judgments. Most of the time, these interpretations put us at the center of the other’s thoughts and motivations. As if all his actions were dictated by a desire to make us the center of his world. It’s illusory and the only person who puts us at the center of his thoughts is ourselves.

Some examples of mind reading

FACT:  “He didn’t reply to my text message”.

MIND READING:  “He doesn’t think of me”. “He does not like me”. “I said something he didn’t like.” “He doesn’t want to talk to me anymore.” “No doubt he is angry”. “He takes his time to answer me because he imagines that I’m going to follow him up to run after him”, etc.

FACT:  “This is the second time this week she has had a work date that drags on into the evening.”

MIND READING:  “She was with someone else”. “Of course, she is trying to avoid me”, “She wants to make me pay something”. “She knows I’m worried and she’s trying to hurt me,” etc.

The examples could be multiplied ad infinitum. You understood the principle. Mind reading consists of acting as if you could slip into the thoughts of the other and guess what he is thinking or what he has experienced.

The risks of mind reading

Mind reading consists of trying to understand the actions of the other as if we were in their head. It is a real poison for the relationship because this mode of operation lets us think that we can dispense with asking questions to the other to know HIS truth. In reality, with mind reading, we lock ourselves in a feeling of doubt, of suspicion which places our vision of the world on the other and which prevents us from really being in contact with the other. It’s a good way to accumulate resentment towards the other to explode one day in a totally inopportune way and disconnected from the present moment. And this is all the more true if we do not share our feelings and if we do not confront our vision of things with the reality of our interlocutor.


With mind reading, a simple omission can be interpreted as a wicked lie and a rather altruistic motivation can turn into a dangerous manipulation. Be careful not to lock yourself into erroneous beliefs. If you tend to do mind reading, learn to separate facts from judgments and interpretations. In addition to your relationship, mind readings can only lead you to ruminate on the negative, feed doubts, including about yourself, maintain fear of judgment from others, alter your self-confidence. In short, it does not have many advantages.

How to detect lies?

I will spare you the eternal eye access keys of NLP. Observing the movement of the eyes is not an easy exercise in itself, it is necessary to have taken the time to calibrate the person before, ie to know his usual mode of operation. Personally, these indications are sometimes invaluable to me when I accompany a person to find out if they are more in their thoughts than in their feelings, for example. Apart from a few showmen who do just that, very clever who could, out of context, detect a lie with this tool. There is no magic wand, but here are some tips.

Listen to your intuition

I was just saying a little earlier that your feelings are not enough to qualify the words of your interlocutor as a lie. But that doesn’t mean they should be neglected. If you live with the person you suspect of lying, you have already “calibrated” them, at least unconsciously. That is to say that you may be able to detect what is called its congruence.


Congruence is the alignment between our words and our actions. But it is also the agreement between verbal language and body language, between what we say and what we feel. I’ll give you an example: when you ask her how she’s doing, your co-worker replies “Yes, I’m fine”, with a forced little smile that fades very quickly to show a tense and worried face. It is a lack of consistency. You know deep down inside that she’s not doing very well. Even if you can’t tell what his discomfort is about.

Our brain records information without our knowledge. Micro-behaviors such as changes in skin color, pupil dilation, voice intonation, can fuel your intuition without you knowing it. Listening to this “small voice” does not mean taking it at its word. It’s just about registering the emotional information you receive, taking it into account. Faced with your intuition, your mind will face two pitfalls.

What to do with lying?

At the risk of disappointing you, there is no ready-made answer. There will be yours. It’s the words you put about your needs that will be important. And the way in which you will assert yourself in front of the other.

Affirm your values ​​and your needs

You are the most important person in your life. Whatever the other may represent to you, you have no reason to put it before your own needs. You deserve to assert yourself and your values. If the lie hurts you, then say it. Ask for transparency, honesty. Explicitly redefine the terms of the implicit contract you made with the other. And if it is not respected, then it will be up to you to advise and make the necessary decisions.


There’s no big or small lie, it’s just how you feel about it. This feeling is worth sharing, because it’s you. Trust yourself. Do not let yourself be destabilized by the self-confidence of the other, by his own confidence. Everything you feel is right. Don’t get sucked into the bottom of the lie. When you listen to the other, stay connected to yourself. If you don’t succeed, come back to yourself and your interiority after the exchange. It’s never too late. Put words on your needs and imagine what you will be able to ask the other to make your life more beautiful. And ask him.

Question the needs of the other

Intention is not unimportant. NLP teaches us that every behavior has a positive intention. Others speak of secondary benefit. That is to say the motivation for oneself or for the other to do something, however inappropriate in fact it may be. Identifying the positive intention of the lie will no doubt help you take a step back so that you no longer feel personally targeted by malevolence. This is a possible step to get out of the role of victim and regain power over oneself.

You can try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to try to understand their motivations. Or ask him directly:

Why was it important for you to lie to me?

What good did you want for us by lying to me?

What made you lie to me?

What were you afraid of not telling me the truth?

Here are the kinds of questions you can ask him to better understand his own needs. They can be of any kind and you are not guaranteed to identify them with certainty. From experience of accompaniment, I know that lying is very often an (unsuitable) way of preserving the relationship.

Lying preserves the relationship

Lying is often a way to preserve the relationship. This is an assertion that may seem paradoxical as lying can affect trust so let me explain. Many people see conflict as a pitfall, a breakdown of the perfect harmony that should (according to them) reign in the relationship. Expressing disagreement, different values ​​and needs, and thus taking the risk of coming into conflict with the other is something extremely healthy. However, for these people, the lie is preferable to the truth if it exposes to these kinds of discrepancies. Lying is, for them, a way of not scratching the values ​​of the other. And a way to avoid the weight of their responsibility towards the other.

If you have to deal with this mode of operation, you can question your own fears in the relationship. Because it’s a safe bet that the other feels them and tries to protect you from them if you are in a rather fusional relationship. Fusion is about feeling incomplete without the other. In this kind of relationship, we impose on the other our shortcomings, our deficiencies, our fears, our existential anxieties, starting with loneliness, and we give them the implicit mission to fulfill us, to protect us, in short, to complete us. In this environment, certain truths may cause concern, fears, the other may feel, unconsciously, the duty to spare us.

How to Avoid the Obscure Trap of Repeated Lies

So here are two tips for not playing indefinitely and for not leaving too many feathers. My first piece of advice is: set limits! Define a time, a date, a maximum number of “chances”. And above all, stick to it! If you come to terms with your own limits, you risk setting them again and again and falling back into an obscure trap. If you keep this notion of an obscure trap in mind, it will be easier for you to get out of it even if you have already delayed the inevitable a lot.

My second piece of advice is this: don’t try to rationalize the time spent or the number of failed attempts. There is absolutely no relationship between how many times you have believed it and how close you are to success or happiness. You would be lying to yourself by making this link.

You tried, and it didn’t work. It’s not your fault, you did your best, now think of yourself. Wanting to change the other sometimes amounts to fighting against windmills and above all it is not the best way to love.


From the moment you expressed what was important to you and the other let you understand that he had heard but that he did not change anything, you have a choice. You can love the other as he is, which may mean accepting that the relationship is not possible for you. Or you can love it for what you want it to be, stick with it no matter what, and waste your energy trying in vain to change it.

To conclude

Faced with lies, it is the torture of doubt that awaits us. But in reality doubt is lifesaving and it is important to accept not knowing rather than creating harmful certainties. The first pitfall is mind reading. The second is rationalization which makes us hide even the facts to preserve our beliefs or our illusions. The hidden trap is certainly the worst thing that can happen to you in the face of other people’s lies: locking yourself into the belief that things will eventually change.

Faced with lies, we are legitimate to reaffirm our needs whenever necessary. Transparency, honesty, trust… None of them deserves to be relegated to the background in favor of the apparent harmony of the whole. We have the right to disagree. It is even  a duty that is our responsibility . It is our duty as parents, in order to pass on our values. Our duty to ourselves in order to honor our existence and our mission as humans. But also our civic duty to contribute to the community.

So and you? How do you position yourself in the face of lying?

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