Parents, don’t be too insulted when your child starts lying to you at a very young age. It’s actually a sign of intelligence. Children who lie are shown to have a higher IQ and become more successful later in life, according to Dr. Kang Lee, director of the Institute of Child Study at Toronto University.
But lying is not an attack on your intelligence. Neither is it about your child’s trust in you. It is simply about punishment and reward. At that age, a child’s brain development puts things in black and white. He will do and say what feels good and rewards him and avoids punishment. So if she has to lie, she will. Morals and appropriateness don’t come into play until a little later on in their development; closer to the teen years.
But adults lie frequently, as well, and often for similar reasons. Although there sometimes is a seemingly justifiable explanation for lies: sparing feelings, protecting family, getting or keeping a job, getting or keeping a relationship. But ultimately the rewards and penalties for honesty are the backbone of why loved ones lie; including emotional, personal, professional, social and financial consequences.
So why do people lie?
- Denial. He can’t face the truth of what happened, or didn’t happen.
- Appearances. She doesn’t want her image to be tarnished, or for people to know her secrets.
- Finances. He doesn’t want his business to suffer or his investments to fall through.
- Prosecution. She doesn’t want to be held financially or morally accountable, and certainly doesn’t want to go to jail.
- Family. He doesn’t want to be disowned by this family, or lose his wife and children.
Lies stem from many places, but have characteristic tells. Lying involves lots of brain functions that create distinct and detectable changes in our behavior and automatic bodily functions; like heart rate, pupil dilation and perspiration. In fact, the latest lie detection technology is moving toward brain mapping, where brain activity can be monitored live. And since memory and creative functions occur in different parts of the brain, lies can be detected easily and quickly.
But believe it or not, you, as a human being, are a fairly good lie detector. Once you know the tools, you’ll be detecting fibs from your family in no time. So how can you tell if your loved one is lying to you?
- Too little eye contact means he can’t face the truth, so he can’t face you. It can also mean she’s thinking of something to say and needs more time to get her story straight.
- Too much eye contact means she is likely telepathically trying to tell or will you to “believe me.” With this excessive eye contact can come physical assertion, like leaning forward, being in your personal space, or holding or restraining you or grabbing your arms or shoulders.
Changing the subject
- He diverts conversation to get the focus, and the heat, off of him. He’ll move to another subject or switch things around and turn the topic back onto you.
- She overreacts and has a massive blowout at the first sign of trouble; sometimes before you can even finish your statement. Something like, “I would never do that! How dare you!” instead of a simple “No.”
- He has an acute under-reaction and almost acts if he didn’t hear you. He has the right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination, so to speak.
- When he gives too much detail he wants you to follow the trail of breadcrumbs instead of focusing on where the story leads.
- If she offers too little detail and leaves questions unanswered, she’s trying to keep herself from fumbling over the lies she’s already told; or just isn’t that creative.
- Talking too much or too little, with or without meaningful details, means there’s something to hide. He is filling you up with fluff or just trying to keep his mouth shut.
The smell test
- Trust your gut, and follow your nose. If the story just doesn’t make sense and seems a little too unbelievable, it probably is.
- On the other hand, if the story makes perfect sense and sounds too believable not to be true, you may have a well-crafted lie on your hands, “a likely story” situation.
Lucky for you, most kids and adults are pretty bad liars. Lying goes against our nature in many ways, beyond punishment and rewards. Lies will way on your conscious and create inconsistencies in your life; between the way you live and want others to live, and how you treat others and want them to treat you.
In the end, when your lies are exposed, the consequences can be far greater than if you had been honest from the beginning; even for the worst offenses. A painful truth now will hurt less than a painful lie later.
With great power comes great responsibility. So use these tools for good, not to get away with your own dishonesty. After all, lying adds complexity to life that the body tries to avoid. Use the classic signs and tells of lies to your advantage when sniffing out the truth from those you love.
Georgia D. Lee is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Business and founder of www.Spiritual-Life-Skills.com, a multimedia self-help, self-actualization, spiritual education and personal empowerment system.