What to do when you know someone is lying to you

Got a question from a Brojo member:

What do we do when we know someone’s lying to us?

So I’ll admit, despite studying honesty for nearly 20 years and working with dishonest criminal offenders for nearly 7 years, I still can’t always tell when someone is lying, and sometimes I think someone is lying when they’re not.

I’ve learned that rather than try to guess if someone is being truthful, I should simply always remain sceptical and try to base my beliefs on evidence.

So there are two situations where this problem will occur. One is when you have evidence that they’re probably lying, and the other is you just highly suspect or feel that they’re lying.

If you actually have the evidence to disprove them, then you can just say that you don’t believe them due to evidence. But you should also keep a curious humility frame, where you recognise that there’s always at least a slight chance that your interpretation of the evidence is incorrect (e.g. memories can be false, videos and images can be faked, people can conspire against someone etc.).

So you ask them, “How do you explain this evidence? Based what you said, here’s this counter-evidence, how do you reconcile that with what you said?”

You get them to explain the evidence away, rather than you trying to prove a case.

And when you just highly suspect or feel that they’re lying, you can say, “I don’t believe you”, and then you can give them an example of what would need to happen for them to believe you, e.g., “Show me the video of it happening or I’ll remain unconvinced.”

The key here is to simultaneously assert your disbelief while not falling into the trap of thinking you know everything. If they’re lying, a humble challenge for indisputable evidence will soon unravel them.

And always remember, words are not evidence!

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One Response

  1. The social world becomes a lot clearer to navigate if you can accept that most people lie often, even those you trust and love

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