How to Lie

Lies may come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes have a plethora of reasons behind them, from avoiding personal harm, to bluffing in a card game for gambling, or wishing to avoid hurting someone, actually to protect someone, on into actively seeking to get some form of "ill gotten" gain from someone (material, social, or emotional). The ethical nature of lying is not the subject of this article; rather, this article is about the steps taken once you've hurdled your personal moral, faith, or trust issues with lying and have made a decision to go ahead and lie.


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    Make peace with your decision to lie. Lying convincingly means you've already faced any nervous, moral or ethical hurdles, and decided for yourself that the lie in question is now desirable or necessary, as you plan on living your lie (you faced a great divide, a sea change of behavior). A shaky liar often trips up through continuing to struggle with nerves based on the morality or faith issues behind the decision to lie or not. Regardless of the reasons, if you lie effectively, you will need to reach a place of internal determination where the lie is adequately fortified in your own mind. At the same time, remember the following:
    • Lying is despised because it has a tendency to hurt, cause disruption, and comes with major costs sometimes including loss of economic, social or financial status. And lying violates trust at both personal and societal levels of fraud, when most of us would still like to keep striving toward being able to trust one another. Yet, it is arguable that sometimes a lie has a place, to protect a reputation, to prevent hurt to someone else, to ease tension, and so on, but it will always depend on the context and extent of the lie, as well as the legality/morality of what is being lied about.
    • Some people, such as sociopaths, find lying to be a breeze. Those kinds of liars are completely self-centered, without remorse, and are unlikely to ever be considerate of another human, unless it is how to play to exploit others comfortably. For most people, lies aimed at manipulating another person will always come at great cost to you when they're uncovered.
    • Some people find lying almost impossible. Whether it's because they're inflexibly ethical, are autistic,[1] or they've just never understood why honesty isn't always the best policy, lying is probably never going to be something that works for such a person. Such a person may tend to confess or even put their foot in things. However, believing in total honesty can sometimes lose sight of the subtleties and nuances required in relationships and situations in which you're in real danger (physical or emotional) or likely to hurt someone with the truth, so passing a general judgment on lying should be done with great care.
    • Lying now and then is a personal decision. However, be realistic with yourself; using lies to avoid responsibility every time something goes wrong in your life can lead to compulsive lying and inability to tell the difference between the need for honesty and the need for safety - a state of mind that can ruin your life. Under what circumstances are you willing to risk damaging relationships, reputation, and future opportunities? Do the benefits of telling the lie outweigh the risks? People end up in jail for lying, and worse.
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    Consider the probability of being detected. Before launching into your lie, ask yourself what the chances are of being caught. Only you can answer the question of how likely it is you'll be found out and the worthiness of lying about the matter. Things to consider include:
    • Have I done this before and been caught out by the people I'm trying it on now? If so, they're not likely to believe me now.
    • Were there witnesses? If you're going to tell your partner you weren't snogging a total stranger in the corner of a party, you're running the risk that someone your partner knows was there, too.
    • Do you feel confident about revising events to make a whole new story? Consider being artful, as "The truth is a fragile thing, but a lie, well told, can live forever." -- Mark Twain, humorist.
    • What are the likely reprisals if caught? Is the person likely to be forgiving or likely to feel totally betrayed? Is it a tiny lie the person can get over, or is it something that goes to the heart of trust in your relationship that, once broken, is unlikely to be mended? So, have you thought about the transforming effect of untruths, "know the truth and the truth shall set you free." -- Jesus, a teacher specializing in life changing decisions.
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    Get your revision of events straight. Once you've made the decision you're going to lie, you will need to come up with your plausible alternative to the facts. As part of this, you need to figure out what you're going to say and what sorts of questions are likely to be asked, so that you can have answers to those questions already sorted out in your head.
    • Think of some specific true thing (place, person, event, story) that your lie will fit into and use those details, if you are questioned. This gives you a bank of specific details to draw on so you don't have to keep making things up as you go along.
    • Keep it simple. The more things you have to lie about to support your original lie, the more likely you are to be tripped up. Lying is a bit like chess – you must always be thinking a few moves ahead. Anticipate what the person you're lying to is going to ask, and be prepared with a response. Make sure you've thought about who you're lying to. What do they already know? What is acceptable or otherwise to them?
    • Writing out the lie can help. The act of writing can enhance your memory of it, and also helps you to sort out the sequence.
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    Use your imagination and envision the lie. In your mind, enact the lie as it "actually happened". This will create the event in your mind for you and you'll be "remembering" it when you begin to retell it to others. In a way, you are convincing yourself of the revision of reality and when you retell it, it begins to sound as you're telling the truth.
    • An example of this might be, "Did I wreck the car? Well, Yes, I accidentally drove it into a wall. So, the wall wrecked the car. I just moved it!" In the immortal words of George Costanza, "It's not a lie if you believe it's true." This works well when your situation is quite ersatz.
    • Alternatively, try imagining that you weren't the person. You're somebody else, a whole new person who didn't wreck the car. Pretend to be that person. Convince yourself that you're the person that didn't wreck the car.
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    Practice lying in front of a mirror or video camera. Observe your facial expressions. Try making your eyes go big and letting your mouth hang open a little for an innocent or believably shocked look. Also, practice looking like you're holding back tears. When you smile, show your teeth a little and crinkle up your eyes and cheeks. This is a "sincere" smile, an ear-to-ear one that covers your whole face.
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    Think about the details. Details can make a lot of difference between a believable lie and an obvious load of verbal trash. Add in extra details that help to embellish the event and make it appear more real in the retelling. For example, "I was outside Burger King having a Whopper with John and Mary" is more believable than simply "I was outside Burger King." (Naturally, if John and Mary aren't in on your lie, you'd need to fill them in to cover for you.)
    • A growing problem (almost like a disease) is remembering all the details: who, what, what brand, when, where, weather, why, how and how many, and crosscurrents of what else was happening, etc. And it turns into a more tangled web of traps for yourself; especially as it may build succeeding layers of events over the days, weeks and even years later, if it mattered to anyone else...
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    Do the opposite of what ordinary liars do. Entire books exist on how to spot a liar. Get hold of one, read it, and aim to do the opposite. People in the act of telling lies tend to do things in the extremes – either they try to avoid eye contact as much as possible or they never break eye contact. In a normal conversation your eyes will move and you will look away to think, but otherwise you will maintain eye contact. In all likelihood, there will always be some subtleties that a good liar spotter will notice (in the realm of criminal law enforcement, police and lie detectors are trained to detect differences in behavior, so learning what they're looking for can help you) but the average person can probably be hoodwinked with careful attention to avoiding some of the following giveaways:
    • Maintain eye contact unless you never do. Liars tend to look away. Appear earnest but not too eager when looking the other person in the eye. Don't look around, but don't stare either. In a normal conversation people do avert their glance from the other person's eyes naturally.
    • Relax. Don't fidget, pick at your clothing, or shuffle your feet. Again, these are signs of someone trying to deflect the conversation away.
    • Keep your hands under control. When people are lying, their hands tend to head towards their faces to cover their mouths or fiddle with parts of the face or clothing. Keep your hands relaxed. Don't touch your head with your hand, or hold your palms up. Keep your palms at your side, and leave them there.
    • Don't use big words unless you usually do. On the same note, if you usually speak in contractions (or don't), keep up your usual habits. Anything unusual about your language or tone will suggest something shifty is up.
    • Keep the smiling to a normal minimum. Think about smarmy people who smile too much when wanting to get something from you; that kind of smiling alerts you to something being up, so avoid overdoing the smiles. Definitely don't laugh or chuckle.
    • Unless you're known for stuttering, don't stutter and definitely don't get flustered. Some people blush or begin to stutter, because in some cases, the subconscious panics. Keep calm and collected.
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    Bring the lie up first before you're questioned about the matter. It's better to lie to the person in advance than to have another person question you later on the same topic. If the victim discovers your misdeed before you explain yourself, they'll have time to deduce what has happened with a reasonable degree of certainty before they ever even question you, making it much harder to convince them of your innocence in the matter.
    • For example: Justin's roommate Zander walks in the front door. Justin, looking up from the computer screen, is told by Zander that the dog ate his pasta, even though Zander actually did. Justin walks into the kitchen, discovers the pasta is gone and shrugs. However, if Zander never said anything, Justin would have come out of the kitchen angry and assumed Zander ate his delicious mid-morning snack, which in turn makes him angry and less receptive to anything Zander has to say in his own defense.
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    Make a truthful admission. If you sense that someone else suspects you of lying, admit or make them suspect you of something small or untrue. They will take the bait and think that that is all you were lying about.
    • If possible, combine your lie with the truth. Say your mom heard you talking on the phone about how drunk you got last night. She confronts you about it. Of course, you cannot completely turn around and say you didn't touch alcohol. Instead, include some of the truth while downplaying it. If you said, "What? I didn't drink!", say, "Yeah, mom, they had a bottle of scotch after work... I took like one drink and I was out. It was gross."
    • Blame the outcome as the cause. Another way of twisting truth is to suggest that things were badly wrong before the big wrong happened. For example, if you've broken something, you could simply say "My goodness, I had been trying to make that darn thing work all afternoon, right down to reading all the accompanying manuals and sticking tape on it. And then all of a sudden, the wretched thing just came apart in my hands. And it hurt me too!"
    • Add a small confession to your lie to reduce suspicion. For example, you have a party your parents didn't authorize while they went out of town, and tell them when they return "I'm sorry, I forgot to feed the dog last night and he ripped up the sofa when I was out". Sometimes doing this can take care of your guilty attitude.
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    Play dumb. Coming off as too stupid to lie is a great defense. Lie as badly as you can about something small, but never actually admit to doing it. You will be free to lie about much bigger things and never be suspected.
    • Fake memory loss. For example, if your mom asked you what you did at lunch and you had been making out with the boyfriend you weren’t supposed to have, instead of just saying "Uh ... nothing special," say something more like: "Uh, I can't remember ... stuff ... talked to some friends." This type of response sounds like what a parent expects to get from a teenager. Try looking a little confused as you feign memory loss - it'll make it more believable. On the other hand, faking amnesia of an event around a police investigator will probably only raise suspicions and anyone who isn't satisfied with "I dunno, can't remember" is probably liable to go ballistic and really drill you for answers. Rely on this approach with great caution.
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    Avoid elaborate stories that involve the need for corroboration. The more people needed to back up your tale, the more likely a hole will open up as soon as one person stuffs it up or forgets their "role" in it. Equally, if something you've said can be confirmed, such as a doctor testing for temperature, checking dates and occurrences in records, checking your credit card transactions, etc., then you are going to find it difficult to wriggle out of facts that are there in black and white.
    • Be very careful when pushing away the discussion from yourself to someone else. It may seem easier to lie and say that you weren't doing what the rest of the crowd was by going into great detail about what "some people in the crowd" were up to. This tactic of trying to make you appear more angelic than anyone else in the crowd can backfire very easily because all the questioner needs to do is talk to other people who were there to find out how you were behaving at the time. For example, your partner questions you about whether you drank too much the night before. You describe as much of the night as you can but lie about your own antics, talking about what everybody else got up to and say: "Yeah, last night was okay. You should have seen Harry though! He downed 6 shots and got chucked out the bar for hitting someone!" While this might work once or twice, if it's your standard tactic, it's likely to be viewed for the whitewash that it is.
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    Appear indifferent. Another way to wriggle your way out of an uncomfortable situation is to act indifferent and to avoid responding defensively. Keep your voice tone steady and don't protest too much. Act like you don't care whether or not the person believes you. If you're really good at this, you can even make it seem that you're disappointed by their lack of faith in you but that you're willing to be forgiving of their lack of faith in you.
    • Be very careful not to make it obvious when you try to change the subject. A person who continuously changes the subject when a topic comes up gets noticed and puts the listener on alert. Trying to be cheerful about a totally unrelated topic when a serious matter is going down unanswered can give the game away that you're "trying too hard" to divert attention from the real issue at hand. Giveaways include laughing too hard at jokes, cracking inappropriate jokes, talking about a pet topic to try to cover up the elephant in the room, and talking in a way that seems nervous, excited, or flippant.
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    Follow through. One of the real reasons why lying doesn't pay and isn't a good means for getting through life is that you have to remember it, in all of its glory, possibly for the rest of your life. You cannot forget about your lie, its details, etc., and you will have to go on treating it like it actually happened. Depending on the context of the lie, staying silent about it might arouse suspicion, especially in retrospect, so you may need to keep mentioning it in conversations the way you would if it had been true. This step might be the one that gives you great pause.
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    Know when not to lie. Finally but importantly, if you're going to lie, know when it's perfectly stupid to try to do so. There are many ethical and faith-based reasons for not lying, and those are within your own personal realm of struggle to deal with. There are some other realities where you're not deciding the odds or karma and where lying isn't going to help anything, let alone you. So, with this in mind, never lie under these circumstances:
    • To officials (government, police, serious job interviews): Tell the truth unless you fully understand and are prepared to accept the results. In the majority of nations, lying to a police officer or in a court of law is a serious legal offense. For your own sake, do not lie; get a lawyer; your lawyer may be able to get the penalty lessened in exchange for your corporation or can find technical or legal loopholes. The sooner you get a lawyer and start working on your release, the better; lying first will hold things up and can make whatever explanations you do have seem dodgy.
    • To your doctor or lawyer: Ask them if you are speaking in the course of a professional relationship (doctor-patient or attorney-client). If they say yes, things you tell them are privileged, and they cannot reveal them even to a court or to the police. This does not hold true if your doctor/psychologist feels you may commit a serious offense, such as murder. Also, some other circumstances may change your relationship with your lawyer/doctor but don't forget that a lawyer is paid to defend you and to find "mitigating circumstances," so don't think with your reptile brain that wants to hide; use your cerebral cortex and think smart defenses instead.
    • To defraud: Never lie to people to get their money, life's savings, and other valuables from them. Not only is this an illegal thing to do, it's a really low and despicable a way to behave.
    • To an attacker: When you are being held at knife-point and having someone demand your wallet, your life is worth more than pretending you don't have your wallet.
    • To your kids. Avoid lying to your kids about family deaths or divorce. They're going to find out sooner or later and the web of lies just makes things worse. Set a good example for them!
    • To cover up for someone else: If someone else has committed a crime, let them pay for it. Otherwise, you'll pay for it by being an accessory if you know about it but don't tell.
    • When dumping someone! In all honesty, when you're breaking your partner's heart, know that he/she might start analysing your reasoning. And, if they seem to be suspicious of your reason, and you're caught lying to them, you reduce a great 60-80% chance of getting your ex as a platonic friend. (This SHOULD be read by ANYONE thinking of breaking up with someone. Honestly, lying about breakup reasons just isn't cool! DON'T DO IT!).


  • Don't put in too much detail. Study shows, that a tell-tale sign that someone is lying is when they give too much detail.
  • Keep it simple or you will not be able to remember what you said.
  • If you make the lie so complicated you get confused, you're going to get tripped up. Saying something like: "John took the book from me, then Tom took it from him then gave it to Anna who gave it back to me then you gave it to John again because he said it was his but it's mine (but it is really John's)" sounds like a muddle and smells like a lie.
  • Attempting to look confused when you're told the information can come across as looking evasive or guilty. Be very careful with this emotion!
  • Be aware that it's easy to slip up and say something that you'd only know if you were lying; your listener will quickly pounce on that. For example, if you said "I didn't take those oranges" when the person had simply said, "Someone stole my fruit", then saying "oranges" makes it clear that you knew at the very least what had been taken, which sort of implies you took them. Sometimes our smarts just aren't smart enough to keep up.
  • Your lie needs to stay the same no matter who you talk to. Think about the gravity of that.
  • Don't confuse privacy with a need to lie. If you don't want to tell people what you're doing, then, don't. Simply tell them it is none of their business in as polite a way as possible and get on with your day. Be assertive, not furtive.
  • When bringing someone else into a lie, use their name if you are suggesting you know them, as you'll only get asked who the person was. If it is plausibly a homeless guy or the door-to-door salesman, then you can probably leave out names, but not when it concerns people you were supposedly hanging out or working with.
  • Don't make the lie too big, like saying you have to leave class because the army wants you or saying you have a flesh-eating virus and if anyone gets too close they will die.
  • Effective liars can be good people readers and can lead people to both say and think what the liar wants. For example, how is it that some people are so successful at wheedling money out of trusting souls to invest in schemes that fail dramatically? It is often because these liars are good people readers who tend to tell people what they want to hear by picking up on the clues the people asking questions give out. While it is morally reprehensible and illegal to take money from people under false pretenses, it is important to note that such "fortune tellers" tend to convince themselves that they're telling truths ("while I am not running a wealthy company right now, I will be soon") and it is this self-conviction, coupled with the gullibility and willingness of the listener to hear what they'd rather hear, that allows the lie to succeed.
  • Consider writing down the lie somewhere if you're forgetful, for a refresher. Realize that doing this can leave you open to being discovered. If it's really bad, have it held by a lawyer in an envelope, to be opened on your death.
  • Lying is all about what the audience senses. Body language is therefore a vital part of a successful lie. Under the stress of lying, we give off signals that a trained eye can see; but even the untrained eye is able to pick up the nuances that take normal behavior into unusual behavior. Thus, giving off confident body language can help to convince a person that you are telling "the truth." Things to bear in mind include:
    • Keep an open body position. This suggests that you're comfortable with the situation.
    • Keep your arms and legs uncrossed. Spread them out.
    • Keep your head level and not tilted downward.
    • Maintain a steady voice that doesn't increase in tone or pitch.
    • Put down anything you're holding, as this creates a sense of barrier, a barrier behind which you're "hiding."
    • Stay relaxed. Any stiffness present will suggest nervousness or hiding something. A realistic yawn now and then might help, but don't force it.
    • Be careful if you tend to swallow a lot; liars can swallow more than usual. Perhaps have a drink to cover this tendency up.
  • If you lie to go along with a lot of pressure from everyone around you who wants to believe it's true, you can come to believe it and live in denial. This can really bite you if the lie is about something real that you can't change, like whether your boss is embezzling, living in the closet about anything, whether your disabilities are real or all in your mind, covering up for an abuser who will do it again and escalate it. Denial comes in many forms and if you lie to go along with the group you can wind up believing the lie in ways that damage you and everyone else.
  • Act the same like you always are. Try not to act nervous or indifferent. Try not to focus on how the lie will affect them and just say the lie as if you were telling the truth.
  • Lying to get out of something you don't want to do is a form of passive aggression and shows a lack of self-esteem and ability to stand up for yourself.
  • Sometimes if your lying to your mom, put a little bit of the truth in so at makes your truth a little bit more truthful about something.
  • Lying can be much more effective when you don't have a reputation for lying.
  • If you lie a lot, You probably already have this down. But practice lying. Lie about little things and make different expressions and act in different ways each time. Eventually you will find the perfect way to do it and you will know what to do and say the next time you are put in the spot.
  • If you're going to tell an important lie, then make sure you can tell the events that supposedly happened backwards. For small lies, this won't matter because it is unlikely your lie will go into much depth. Liars tend to think of everything that happened in order, so when someone asks about what caused an event in the middle of the chain of events, the liar is more likely to trip up, which would be very bad.
  • If you can avoid many comments, you should do so. Observance is very important. That being said, being too vague can alert someone of a lie.


  • When telling a lie to a loved person or someone you admire and trust, take into consideration that sometime in the future you may feel guilty. This feeling may be permanent, and if you ever confess the truth, you may find out that it would have been better to never have lied in the first place.
  • It is the ego that often lets the lie out of the bag, the stroking self-satisfaction at having pulled off such a good lie.
  • Once a few lies feel easy, a few more feel even easier. Not starting is often the best way of not falling into what is essentially a very bad habit that lets you off the hook of owning up to your own mistakes and being self-responsible.
  • Once a liar, always a liar is a common feeling for many. Mud sticks and is hard to remove.
  • Your lie may cause you stress, guilt, or make you feel like a bad person. Keep this in mind and remember that it will always be in the back of your mind. It may weigh you down. Now decide if it is worth lying at all.

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