Friday, October 1, 2010

7 types of Lies

Lying comes in many forms. Some we would probably admit to doing on almost a day-to-day basis, others we give silent approval for. But when does lying become something acceptable, or if not acceptable, when is it necessary? And when, do lies become truth and truth become lies? Let me explain what is generally agreed to be the 7 main types of lies.

1) Blatant Lies - This is when something someone says is untrue or when someone gives false information. [I didn't bring my homework because I left it on my table and forgot to bring it after finishing it.] This is one of the most common forms of lies that is often used in our attempts to justify a mistake or shift the blame to someone else. [It wasn't me, she was the one who asked me to do it.] [I returned you the money last week, don't you remember?] This type of lie is generally frowned upon. It is generally used to benefit yourself without helping others in anyway. Sometimes, this is referred to as black lies.

2) White Lies - These are generally used with the intention to help someone else. ["Am I going to die daddy?" The tiny girl asks in a barely audible voice, laying in a pool of blood, your hands hugging her. "Don't worry dear, everything is going to be alright."] Often enough, they are used for their placebo effect. There are times when people think that something they do helps them, it does even when it actually does not. This is credited to a psychological effect that is triggered in the mind, often linked to how positive thinking or optimism helps people. Some people believe that such lies should not be told but its generally the "I'm going to die in 1 month" and the patient sinks into despair versus the "I only have one month left to live but I'm going to make the best use of it I can" outcome where it is often not known which choice, telling the truth or a white lie would be more beneficial to the patient.

3) Lies of magnitude - These are commonly termed as exaggerations. When you exaggerate, you are not objectively providing information. [You're the most beautiful woman in the world.] Often enough, such lies are used in the form of flattery or boasting. Making something seem better than it actually is also falls under this category. Often used in advertisements [5 times better than other dishwashing liquids] or [Removes twice as much plaque than toothbrushes of other brands]. With no actual standard or normal product to compare against, there can be no actually validation of the fact. Sometimes it's simply [Whiter], [Better], [Highest Quality]. These are some examples of puffery. Sometimes it is used inversely, making people think you didn't do so well on that test so that you seem 'modest'.

4) Lies of misdirection - "What is O-N-E?" you ask someone, lifting up one finger. "1." He replies. "What is T-W-O?" you ask again, lifting up two fingers. "2." He replies again. "What is 1 +1?" you ask finally, lifting up three fingers. "3." He mistakenly replies and you have just committed a lie of misdirection. Often enough this is used in games like bridge, poker, Bang! to make others believe that you have something better or worse than you actually do. Intentional baiting someone is also classified here. Most often, these as used by magicians to make you take note of something else while they trick you.

5) Partial truth - Not telling the whole truth is also a form of lying. That is why in court you take oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. When the group gets together to find who stole the stack of chips on the table. "Who did you see go into the room?" you were questioned. "Teddy." you say, 'forgetting' to mention you saw Deborah looking suspicious as she left the room. When giving information out of context or in an intentional sarcastic way can also mislead the listener to believe that you are not telling the truth. [Yeah, I am the one who took the money.]

6) Self-Deception - Sometimes, we lie to ourselves without even knowing that we do so. We believe that we are doing the "right' thing or the best that we can when in fact we are not. Being overly optimistic to the point that we believe that we can do better than we can also falls in this category. The Arbinger Institute covers this nicely in their book, Leadership & Self-Deception. Do get the book if you have the chance.

7) Potential Truths - Saying something as if it were fact without knowing for sure that it is true is also a lie. Fabrication is also included in this category. Rather than something that is just pulled out of the air, it could also be a misinterpretation of information or drawing false conclusions. Like explaining a scientific concept without actually knowing the fundamental principles and making it seem like you know what you are talking about or telling someone who asked for directions the way to someplace when you don't actually know where it is.

There are also some other forms of lies such as Jocose lies (which includes teasing or what we generally consider as kidding), Noble lies and Lies-to-children (such as the existence of Santa Claus or simple over-simplification of certain ideas or concepts that are too difficult for children to understand for example death or childbirth.) which are not covered in this article.

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