Businessman with crossed fingers is a true liar.

Why do people lie?

To Flatter People

Feldman said flattery is one of the most common forms of deceit. Flattery normally entails an exaggeration of facts—”the addresser praises insincerely by showing more than the truth,” according to a February 2018 article. In other words, the person isn’t being fully honest if they have to exaggerate to give praise.

Girl is flatter to bottom of heart. Studio shot of pleased and thankful beautiful caucasian female

As a result, people are skeptical of flattery because they know it’s not always sincere. Someone may give you a false compliment to befriend you, persuade you to do them a favor, get you to confide in them, and more.

To Avoid Awkwardness

Awkwardness can come from a lot of situations. How someone fumbles around trying to kick a soccer ball into a goal or attempts to join in on a conversation where they know very little about the subject matter can make that person self-conscious. Consequently, Feldman said that lying to avoid awkwardness comes back to a want to be liked by others and to not disappoint anyone.

Shy awkward young woman biting nails feeling embarrassed, confused and nervous, looking at camera.

In customer service situations, consumers may also lie to keep from making someone feel bad, according to a March 2022 Journal of Business Research article, which can be yet another facet of avoiding awkward situations.

To Influence Others

“People lie to get others to do what they want them to do,” Feldman said, using the example of a salesperson. For our purposes, let’s say the person is selling a facial cleanser. They might rave about the cleanser, saying they had acne their whole life, and nothing worked to clear it until they found this product, the holy grail of facial cleansers.

Influencers vlogging from home

They might even mention that it changed their life—and it can change yours. The statement is probably not true, but the tactic is still often effective.

To Avoid a Negative Outcome

Think of a child who broke a glass, Feldman said. When their parent asks if they broke the glass, they’re probably going to say no, even though it’s an obvious lie. A November 2019 Journal of Youth and Adolescence study noted that because children’s executive functioning gets better the older, they become, the harder it is to tell when they are lying. In other words: “As we get older, we learn to be better liars,” Feldman added.

Asian girl kid sitting and crying while parents having fighting or quarrel conflict at home.

Further, people may continue to lie to protect themselves, but they may also lie to protect others, like if the child’s older sibling says they saw the dog knock the glass over even though they know it was their sibling.

To Achieve a Positive Outcome

People may lie to get an outcome they want for themselves or others, Feldman said. Overstating experience on a resume or in a job interview is a classic way people lie to get what they want.

Optimistic young woman anticipates good news keeps fingers crossed begs for positive outcome wears c

The same goes for a person who’s trying to help their friend get hired at their company. They may overstate their friend’s experience to the hiring manager, saying how successful and personable they are, to increase their chances of landing the position—and landing themselves a coworker they already get along with.


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