Confronting Lies

I’m afraid that this may be one of those – do as I say, not as I do posts.  I know what I should be doing ideally, but I don’t always do it. That’s ok. This is practice, not perfection, thought that shouldn’t be an excuse to not try and correct our bad behavior in the future.

For me, there is nothing quite so infuriating as a lie. I suppose I lead a sheltered life if this is my main beef with the world, but hear me out.  I am all about reality based problem solving.  Lies prevent reality based problem solving. They interfere.  Think of it as a form of verbal bullying designed to get people to take courses of action that will not only not work, but may cause harm.

Why would people do this?  Because they either don’t know what they are saying is not true, or … they have something to gain from the lie.

There are a couple of different ways to think aboiut how we deal with lying.

One is behavioral. Lying is a behavior and can be modified with behavioral modification techniques. In politics, there is a WHOLE LOT of misinformation being spread by otherwise normal caring people who have no idea that they were lied to or that the post they just shared is a lie or is based on a lie. These people have been conditioned to do this and can be conditioned to stop. The key is to remove the reward by letting them know – this isn’t true.   Yes, when you do this – people retreat. But they also come back. The retreat and the re-entrenchment is what happens when a reward is not received for some behavior. Just be patient and allow them to come back for more. Eventually – they may even start to trust you. 
Am I good at this?  Depends on the lie that is being told to me. I gotta be honest, lies that are told by white nationalists, because they involve denying and erasing people from the public sphere are so horrendous to me that I have zero patience and sometimes – lose it. But I keep reminding myself to try and be calmer the next time.

Another possibility is that the person is lying because they are pathological about it. Lying has become so much of a habit that like any habit – they can’t break it. You can’t get them to stop, your goal should instead be to make sure people listening, understand it’s a lie. Challenging them won’t change them, but it may help others avoid falling prey.

The final category is people who lie strategically for gain. These are the hardest to deal with because most of what they say is true so you won’t notice the lie slipping through. These require skepticism and doubt. 

Which brings me to the technique – doubt. Skepticism. When someone tells a lie calling them out as a liar is ok. Especially if it is a bald face lie. But for people who don’t know they are lying, you need to get them to doubt and you do that – not by calling them a liar- but in letting them know you are highly skeptical and doubtful that what they just shared is true.

Is this easy to do in the moment when you are confronted by obvious lies? No. But we have to start somewhere.

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