Confronting Lies


I’m afraid that this may be one of those – do as I say, not as I do posts.  I know what I should be doing ideally, but I don’t always do it. That’s ok. This is practice, not perfection, thought that shouldn’t be an excuse to not try and correct our bad behavior in the future.

For me, there is nothing quite so infuriating as a lie. I suppose I lead a sheltered life if this is my main beef with the world, but hear me out.  I am all about reality based problem solving.  Lies prevent reality based problem solving. They interfere.  Think of it as a form of verbal bullying designed to get people to take courses of action that will not only not work, but may cause harm.

Why would people do this?  Because they either don’t know what they are saying is not true, or … they have something to gain from the lie.

There are a couple of different ways to think aboiut how we deal with lying.

One is behavioral. Lying is a behavior and can be modified with behavioral modification techniques. In politics, there is a WHOLE LOT of misinformation being spread by otherwise normal caring people who have no idea that they were lied to or that the post they just shared is a lie or is based on a lie. These people have been conditioned to do this and can be conditioned to stop. The key is to remove the reward by letting them know – this isn’t true.   Yes, when you do this – people retreat. But they also come back. The retreat and the re-entrenchment is what happens when a reward is not received for some behavior. Just be patient and allow them to come back for more. Eventually – they may even start to trust you. 
Am I good at this?  Depends on the lie that is being told to me. I gotta be honest, lies that are told by white nationalists, because they involve denying and erasing people from the public sphere are so horrendous to me that I have zero patience and sometimes – lose it. But I keep reminding myself to try and be calmer the next time.

Another possibility is that the person is lying because they are pathological about it. Lying has become so much of a habit that like any habit – they can’t break it. You can’t get them to stop, your goal should instead be to make sure people listening, understand it’s a lie. Challenging them won’t change them, but it may help others avoid falling prey.

The final category is people who lie strategically for gain. These are the hardest to deal with because most of what they say is true so you won’t notice the lie slipping through. These require skepticism and doubt. 

Which brings me to the technique – doubt. Skepticism. When someone tells a lie calling them out as a liar is ok. Especially if it is a bald face lie. But for people who don’t know they are lying, you need to get them to doubt and you do that – not by calling them a liar- but in letting them know you are highly skeptical and doubtful that what they just shared is true.

Is this easy to do in the moment when you are confronted by obvious lies? No. But we have to start somewhere.

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Conflicts and Compromise

Conflicts happen. The challenge is knowing how to deal with them effectively, knowing when to compromise and when to hold your ground.

I teach how to use behavioral techniques to diffuse conflicts and deal with harassment and retaliation.  I also teach a class on why conflict management doesn’t work when the problem is bullying.  Finally, I also have a course on how to win arguments by not arguing – called – Socratic Jujitsu.  All of these programs are science based.

Let’s assume we are dealing with a conflict that is based on a real disagreement and not with something that is actually irrational and happening because people have implicit biases that are effecting how they are interacting with others.

1)      As long as a disagreement is professional, it can be resolved.  If the disagreement is manifesting as unprofessional behavior, it can’t be. Sniping, name calling, passive aggressive behavior, interrupting, denigrating comments and more – are all unprofessional. If that is happening, what is happening, isn’t just a disagreement and those other behaviors have to be addressed before conflict resolution can occur.

2)      The key to conflict resolution is respect. Both parties must get to a point where they step back and respect that the other person is holding their other opinion for a valid reason and that once we know what that is – we can work through the differences.  Assuming there is an actual disagreement on the best way to move forward, one side can take the initiative to start asking questions so that cooperative problem solving can occur.

When should you give up? That depends. Do you feel like this is mission critical? Or not. If not – then perhaps just lodging your disagreement and then allowing whatever to go forward will be fine. Who knows, you may have been wrong and the other person may have been right. But if you are absolutely convinced this is a mission critical issue and that the project will fail if something isn’t addressed, then fight for it. Just be aware, the best way to do that is to ask questions that introduce doubt into the mind of the person you are disagreeing with.  The goal is to move from conflict to cooperative problem solving.

Want to learn more- check out these online courses:



Humanist Marriage

Respect and Problem Solving inside marriage

I am obviously a Humanist. My husband identifies as a Humanist too. We have been married for 17 years now. Still happily married. What is the secret to our success. Respect and problem solving.

I truly respect my husband. He is a wonderful person. Creative, caring, compassionate, responsible, kind, intelligent, interesting and supportive.   It is very easy to forget all that when we are problem solving though.

Marriage is a partnership. The two people work together to secure food and housing and health care and if they have kids, to help raise and take care of and support the individuals in their family unit – however that is defined and however extended that family unit is.

This is a long winded way of saying – marriages require a lot of problem solving. All the time.  Sometimes, we have disagreements on how best to solve our problems. Sometimes those disagreements are minor – like what color to paint the walls. Other times they are more pressing, like who is going to take out the trash or make sure the kid is picked up from whatever activity they are at.

Respect for the other person as a fully functional intelligent human being, helps us navigate those disagreements so that we engage in cooperative problem solving and don’t devolve into arguments.  People are often astonished that my husband and I rarely argue.  It happens every once in a while. But mostly, we just enter problem solving mode and respect each other’s ideas and suggestions. I guess that’s what comes with being married for 17+ years.

What I am sure of is that IF I didn’t respect him enough to value his opinion, he would have lost respect for me ages ago. Respect and problem solving – lead to a happy marriage. In my case anyway.

Learn more about how to integrate compassion and your coping skills so that you improve your interpersonal relationships with Living Made Simpler - the course

Cam Newton and Sexism in the Workplace

Cam Newton's sexist remarks gives us an opportunity to discuss gender and equality in the workplace

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