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7 Tips for Surviving Run-ins With a Pathological Liar

pathological liar

The compulsive or pathological liar can ruin friendships, relationships, work environments and strain families. 

We all know that person who tells unbelievable stories. Or the one who is conveniently always full of excuses.

Pathological lying has been defined by the Psychiatric Times as “a long history (maybe lifelong) of frequent and repeated lying for which no apparent psychological motive or external benefit can be discerned.”

While there are more questions than there are answers about this condition, it seems to stem from a fragile ego in the person who cannot face his or her own reality, and thus creating another one through the compulsive lies. For the pathological liar who is full of excuses, it’s a similar recourse for evading true life circumstances.

Pathological lying can stem from narcissism, obsessive behavior and low-self esteem, among other psychological conditions. Knowing that it’s a symptom of a deep-seeded issue can make us more sympathetic to compulsive liars, but you also need a good strategy for navigating the BS. Here are some tips:

1. Recognize the pattern: Most pathological liars want you to know they’re lying. It can be a cry for help to deal with the underlying issue. The more time you’re exposed to the liar, the easier it will be to spot the untruths and what you can actually believe.

2. Make them earn your trust: The liar, particularly the one who is full of excuses, may keep begging you to believe them after betraying your trust. Don’t. Trust is something that’s earned and if you’ve identified a pattern of lying, you have every right to reset the clock on your relationship every single time it happens.

3. Ignore the lies: This is particularly helpful with the liar who tells grandiose stories. You can simply underreact to that tall-tale about how your ex “totally was supposed to party with Tupac the night he was killed.” When you respond with “oh, that’s nice” they’ll realize their stories aren’t getting the attention they want and stop telling them.

4. Let them come clean: You can do this with a little guidance, and ironically, a little bit of lying yourself. Instead of calling out the lie, which is likely to be met with more excuses and stories, see what happens when you ask how your sick friend is feeling and if you can bring her any soup… even though you’ve already seen the Instagram pictures of her at the beach with her new boyfriend when she was supposed to be helping you paint your bathroom.

5. Write it down: This is especially helpful in a professional setting where someone’s job could be at stake. Keeping records can be helpful when you have that uncomfortable confrontation. Liars are manipulators who thrive on drama, so they’re often better at weaseling out of confrontations with their creativity. Having your examples in front of you can help to keep the focus on the pattern.

6. Choose  your battles: People start to lie for many different reasons. Particularly when you’re in a relationship, it may make sense to scream “aha!” when he swears he took the trash out yet it’s sitting right in front of you – but if there are other things going on, like losing a job or family problems, he or she may just want to make you happy with a lie.

7. Suggest therapy: When you’ve exhausted your efforts and the lies still don’t seem to stop, it’s a sign there’s more underlying it all. It’s not a healthy situation and sometimes, the best thing you can do is gently suggest that since the lies seem to be stemming from a bigger problem, a little therapy may be helpful in resolving them. You may even take the time to research therapists who specialize in the problem and offer to set an appointment.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: Juliana Coutinho

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