As I have indicated in a prior post, Lying is one of the many tactics by which a person avoids taking responsibility for behavior while simultaneously attempting to manipulate or manage the impression of others.  It’s one of the most common, habitual tactics used by individuals with a disorder or disturbance of character.  

In my prior posts, I’ve talked about what my experience working with disturbed characters has taught me about why such individuals lie, especially when at times there appears to be no useful purpose to the lie Now, there is some research coming out of USC that supports much of what I have been saying about lying and the reasons for it.  Investigators looking into the reasons people lie came up with 9 reasons, 8 of which are easily reducible to two basic categories, namely to avoid something undesirable (e.g., punishment) and to secure something desirable more easily or reliably (i.e. by cheating) than you would likely secure through honesty.  These results confirm what my observations have been.  More interestingly, however, the recent research has also confirmed a third reason people lie which I’ve long pointed to as a cardinal trait of the most disordered characters.  That reason is to purely to have power or advantage over another.  You see, disordered characters (most especially, the aggressive personalities) never want the field of play to be level. They want to be in a position to take advantage of others and to exploit their weaknesses.  So they always try to assert or establish a one-up position.  This completely explains why some of the most disordered characters lie even when it appears to serve no useful purpose.  Lying is an effective way to keep others in the dark or in a disadvantaged position with respect to knowing what kind of person or issues they’re dealing with.  So, even when there appears no other useful purpose to lying, keeping someone else second-guessing or at a disadvantage with respect to having your number so to speak is reason enough to lie.  

So, now there appears to be some solid empirical support for things I’ve been saying for a long time and first spelled out in my book In Sheep’s Clothing back in 1996.  Perhaps that’s another reason why the book has lasted so uncommonly long as a bestseller.  As my work and writing gain popularity around the globe, I’m both humbled and honored by the notion that my observations about the nature and tactics of character disordered individuals are increasingly being proven valid.  

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4 Responses to Lying – Another Look at this Character Defect

  1. weary CEO
    Sep 07, 2010

    Absolutely right. And it is so difficult to get others to realize this, if they haven’t taken the journey from being an ordinary well-meaning ‘neurotic’ (conscientious, compassionate) to a wised-up neurotic. And that leaves the innocent vulnerable, or at least using inadequate tactics and strategies.

    We are struggling with trying to rid our organization of an employee who is, I am sure, covert aggressive. (And how ‘covert’ it is i begin to doubt, as he is increasingly cornered.) They lying is prodigious and outrageous – not only things that he knows can’t be possibly true; but he says things (damaging things) that he knows that his listener knows aren’t true! How can you lie to someone when you know they know you’re lying?

    Even our lawyer is saying things like ‘I think he really believes it… has convinced himself…’ etc. Because there is a well-known phenomenon of people passionately clinging to their self-serving view and refusing to see other viewpoints – people who aren’t psychopaths (or ‘covert aggressives’, to use your preferable refinement of categories.)

    What I’m trying to get people to see is, for CAs, language and communication are not about truth, they’re about power.

    And perhaps you could bring out still more in your post above – it may not simply be about being ‘one-up’ – it’s about INTIMIDATION. It’s like the logical difference between a warning and a threat – a warning still contains a clause that can be true or false, but a threat has no truth or falsity – it is pure intimidation.

    To look someone in the eye and tell a lie the listener knows is a lie is to say – ‘I am capable of saying ANYTHING about you — truth is no protection — so be VERY AFRAID of what I can do to you!’

  2. Weary Employee
    Jun 15, 2011

    The comments of Weary CEO made me wonder if he was referring to my previous office manager. All the statements he made could be about my previous boss. Finally after almost three years of being lied to and bullied by my boss I decided it had gone on long enough. I stopped making excuses for his behavior and became more assertive when dealing with him. He found this extremely threatening and fired me. I had weighed the possibility that this might be the outcome and decided my emotional well being was worth the risk.
    I am just one of many in the company who have either quit or been fired by this person and have been told by the “higher ups” that they know all about his lies and abuse but don’t have the man power or budget to replace him yet. I waited as long as I could in hopes that he would be replaced. The reality is that people with character disorders can be so toxic and destructive that sometimes you have to distance yourself from them at any cost to yourself. I was an asset to my company as an employee and yet they allowed him to fire me. I wonder how many companies lose good employees because they put people with character disorders in management positions?
    I’m impressed with Weary CEO for dealing with this difficult issue as opposed to ignoring it. I wish the CEO at my company had the type of character that Weary CEO obviously does.

  3. jc
    Jan 17, 2012

    I have a lifetime friend who recently spread false claims about me that are both slanderous and defaming. She did this verbally and in writing but in the third person.
    I lived with her for awhile to help raise her daughter. She had become a functioning, but mean and bitter alcoholic who on occassions was emotionally and physically explosive toward her daughter. I left knowing that her paranoia, bitterness and need for control was so scary that I could no longer trust her.
    Given the damage she has done, I often wonder if I should sue her to stop her from destroying my reputation and from potentially burting someone else who is less strong.

  4. laura
    Jan 05, 2014

    i’ve seen these people lie just for the thrill of it, pulling the wool over someone’s eyes

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