Why People Lie

By Dara Chea,

© What What/2005/Licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

Most people might say they are honest and have never told a lie. Do you think it is true that someone never lies, not even once in their life? As a matter of fact, people are liars. All of us have told a lie. Researchers have found out the number of lies people tell on a daily basis – a minimum of once to twice per day. Now, I just want to challenge you to think about these questions for a bit:

  • Have you ever given people compliments that aren’t completely genuine?
  • Have you ever told someone you were doing well when you were actually exhausted and having a terrible week?
  • Have you ever told people you were busy to avoid having to talk to them for an extended period of time or do something with them?

If you answer one of these question with YES, you have lied before.

Surprisingly, after having met different kinds of people, I’ve got to learn that people can’t avoid lying. Lying is a part of their everyday life. And they often do it on purpose; it’s just a matter of how little or how much. There may be many reasons underlying this habit, but so far, I’ve found out five common ones why people lie.

Trying to Be Polite

Being polite is the most common reason why people lie. Some deceptions are required by politeness like “Thanks so much for your great love. Ahh your food is tasty. The clothes really suit you best. You look beautiful or handsome. Ahh I like you…And I like you too.” These situations explain why people lie. They do it just because they believe that lying, in a way, could help them avoid hurting others’ feelings, or they want to keep a good relationship with others .

But the question is how long could you keep up this lie? If you keep it up for too long, you might become a habitual liar. You don’t realize that this could still end up hurting others because they expect you tell them the truth. Please be aware that sooner or later, others will learn about it. Thus, telling the truth from the very beginning is better, when the situation isn’t that serious.

Trying to Avoid Embarrassment

Avoiding embarrassment is another big reason for lying. People often do this by telling many small lies. Sometimes, people may lie to get out of some socially awkward situations. For instance, when we fail a test, we tend to blame it on having too much work that didn’t leave us enough time to review, rather than blaming ourselves for not studying harder. Our fear is to lose our  face. Perhaps conversations like “Hey, have a date?…Oh sorry, I don’t feel well today…” or  “I’ve been on my way out the door already, so next time is better…” are excuses given by people who do not feel brave enough to be truthful.

Trying to Boost Their Reputation


Photo by Sonny Ravesteijn on Unsplash

This is a form of lying that some people commonly do, which comes down to their desire to impress society or other important people in their lives. They do it for nothing other than to boost or preserve their favorable self-image so that they could draw other’s attention to them. It could be a white lie that they use to preserve their self-image. Sometimes, it’s to exaggerate their accomplishments and omit the important information about shady parts of themselves. So, people will overlook their disadvantages and therefore perceive them in the best possible light. One clear example of this is when someone goes to an interview and tries everything to boost their reputation, such as by exaggerating their working experiences, so that the interviewer would see them as a potential candidate and they could land their dream job.

Trying to Evade Conflict

Photo by Marek Szturc on Unsplash

However, there are also times when lying could be a good thing which people normally prefer doing in a situation such as a conflict or confrontation. Just because people perceive it as beneficial to interpersonal interests. Perhaps, people know that it may ruin their relationship or friendship if they dare to say the truth. For example, say you have a crush on a girl, and you don’t realize she is your best friend’s girlfriend. Surprisingly, your best friend decides to ask you if you have ever had feelings for that person. In this case, you might attempt to defuse the situation by lying about your feelings. If you tell the truth, you may be scared your best friend would be upset, and the tension between you would build into a terrible conflict that could ruin your friendship.

Sometimes, you might lie out of fear because you may fear that you will be punished or physically hurt. In this context, some people deceive just because they would rather avoid these dire consequences. For example, an innocent, teen girl might decide not to expose the truth that her boyfriend is an abusive man to the public. Two possible reasons underlie this matter. One is she could dread her boyfriend’s disappointment and disapproval by those around her, hopefully to keep her relationship everlasting. Another is she could be fearful of any terrible punishment her boyfriend could do to her if she dares to report this case to the police.

Trying to Protect Someone Else

Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash

Protecting someone from harm or the consequences of their actions is another reason why people lie. This lie mostly happens when you realize that your family members, friends, colleagues, loved ones, or anyone whom you care about, are in danger and you don’t want them to be punished. So, you decide to lie to the one who wishes to hurt them. For instance, if a suspicious man asks you where your best friend has escaped, you would probably lie and say that you’ve lost contact with your buddy for months. You know your friend would be murdered or in a critical situation for sure if you tell that suspicious man about the exact location of your friend. Another scenario could be parents who don’t disclose their child’s criminal actions, for they know the consequences could destroy their child’s future.

In short, people basically lie and act according to their own agenda all the time. Actually, a lie may or may not be justifiable depending on the circumstance itself. Sometimes, it’s right to lie, so as to save people’s lives. But there are also times a lie could result in undesirable consequences that nobody wants to hear or wishes to happen. It does no good when someone you know and love tells you lies, for it can make you feel confused, betrayed and sad. There are tons of examples of how lying can affect another person. The one who had been lied must hold questions like, Why did someone I care about lie to me? Do they not trust me? Do they not love me as much as I thought? You can see that the severity of lying could stir one’s life. Imagine if you tell lies to many people, the results could be hard to predict. So, please always be mindful when you decide to lie for whatsoever motives you have.


Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.



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