Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Tangled Web We Weave

I like Barry Manilow. I'm a Fan-ilow and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

But I used to be. When I was 16 I paid sixty bucks a ticket to see him in concert. Of course I couldn't take a friend with me. Like they would really want to go and I didn't have the guts to ask them anyway. Even my own mother wouldn't go. So I wound up going with my aunt.

I don't remember the lies I told my friends about what I did the night of the concert but I'm sure it was stupid. It kind of makes me laugh now at how many things I lied about just to avoid embarrassment. Chances are, if you and I were hanging out in high school and I told you I was sorta grounded so I had to be home early, or picking up a relative at the airport, or just feeling tired and wanting to make it an early night, I was lying. I had to be home to make curfew.

Maybe without realizing it, we routinely lie to ourselves: "I'll start/quit tomorrow." "These pants must have shrunk." "I think I handled that ok." It's a natural progression since we were raised on lies. Our parents read us, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" and told us about a fat man in a red suit who comes down the chimney once a year to bring us presents. 

We are constantly being told lies. "He's in a meeting." "I'm 29." "I'm not usually like this." "I'll call you right back." "We're just friends." We're so used to being lied to we often don't even consider exaggerating to be lying. If it's a "benign lie" that doesn't seem to hurt anyone we call it a white lie. In poker it's called bluffing. Our country even protects our right to lie with the Fifth Amendment. If it's incriminating, you don't have to say it, which is a lie by omission if you ask my mother.

So what if you're fed up with all of the crap? It isn't always easy to spot a liar if their pants are not on fire and they aren't hanging their lies on a telephone wire. What do you do if you can't trust their pinky swear? If they won't cross their heart, hope to die, and let you stick a needle in their eye? Fortunately, there are some dead giveaways that someone is telling tales:

  • The person avoids eye contact and makes limited or stiff arm and hand movements.
  • They touch their face or mouth. Sometimes they'll scratch their nose or behind their ear.
  • They put objects between you and themselves, like a book or their coffee cup.
  • They don't use contractions. They say, "I did not do it."
  • If you change the subject and the person seems suddenly more relaxed, they were probably lying.
  • Also, there is a difference in a lie smile and a truth smile.
But if you really want to know when someone is lying, you could watch the politicians. They'll show you how it's done.

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