Did you know that the long-term effects of being lied to can seriously damage our mental well-being?
Whether you have been told your bum doesn’t look big in that outfit, or your partner has been unfaithful behind your back; we have all been lied to at some point in our lives.
Arguably, a little white lie designed to protect your feelings is much different from an out-and-out fib from a cheating spouse. Or is it?
Research suggests that it is not the trivial nature or the importance of the lie. We suffer the psychological effects of being lied to no matter what the lie is.
8 Psychological Effects of Being Lied To
1. You lose trust
Trust, whether intimate or professional, is crucial to maintaining any relationship. Catching someone out in a lie erodes that trust. You may forgive them once, even twice. However, if it becomes habitual, it slowly changes the relationship.
Whereas before you automatically believed this person, now you begin looking for lies. You certainly stop confiding in them, after all, they can’t be trusted. This is one of the most sound effects of being lied to.
2. You lose faith in the person/system
One study, in particular, highlighted the impact of lying from political leaders or managers to the general public. Participants scored their trust levels after a lie was revealed. The results showed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that participants were less likely to trust the person who lied.
The study also examined how participants felt about the type of lie told. For example, did the lie benefit the country or the company, or was the lie for personal gain? The study showed that trust levels were lowest when the lie benefited the person.
3. You feel disrespected
Honesty in a relationship shows a level of respect. You are able to share views that may differ, but it doesn’t change the way you feel about that person, you value this person enough to be honest with them. You are confident enough to trust them.
We all deserve the truth, however upsetting it might be to hear it. Once you know the truth, you can make an informed decision; for example, do you want to stay in the relationship? If someone lies to you, it shows a lack of responsibility from them to face any consequences.
4. You question other relationships
Being lied to has a knock-on effect on your other relationships. Perhaps other people in your life are telling you porkies and you are naïve enough to believe them. You start to second-guess or scrutinise people when they talk to you.
Does their story seem plausible? Do the facts need checking? Is this yet another person you have to confront? You become suspicious of the people you used to trust. All because someone else lied to you.
5. You are on high alert
Trust allows an easygoing state in a relationship. When you fully trust your partner, you can relax, knowing that whatever happens, you’ll get the truth. Lying has the opposite effect.
Instead of a state of calm, the effects of lying put you on perpetual high alert. It changes your actions. You may become suspicious of everything they say. You might start checking up on them; looking at their text messages or internet browsing history.
6. You question yourself
Being repeatedly lied to saps our self-esteem. Why is this person lying? Why do they think they can get away with it? Why do they disrespect you so much? These sorts of questions eat away your confidence.
Is there something wrong with you that causes people to act this way around you? You start to feel devalued and a fool for believing them in the first place.
7. You are easily triggered in future relationships
If a significant other has lied to you in the past, it makes you suspicious about future partners. After all, you trusted this person and they fooled you. How can you be sure this won’t happen again?
For some people, the thought of being lied to is worse than the actual thing they are being lied to about. You feel cheated as if someone has got one over you. Now, in the present, you question everything and take nothing for granted.
8. You start to lack empathy around people
The long-term effects of being lied to eventually make you immune to people’s feelings. You get hardened by tales of woe that you suspect are not true. Your compassion and empathy diminish over time.
You may also start to put barriers up. You don’t want to know about people’s problems if there’s a possibility they are lying.
Why Do People Lie If It Has Such a Detrimental Effect?
Clearly, being lied to has a detrimental psychological effect on us, but that’s not all. One study showed that lying less is associated with better health. So, why do people lie, and what can we do about it?
Psychologist Dr. Paul Ekman is an expert on lying. Dr. Ekman is ranked number 15 of the most influential psychologists of the 21-century. He also helped to discover the micro-expressions that body language experts use to detect lies.
Dr. Ekman says that people lie for the following reasons:
- To avoid the consequences of their actions: This is the most common reason for lying; to avoid punishment, conflict, or rejection.
- For personal gain: This is the second most popular reason people lie; in order to obtain something that they wouldn’t normally get.
- To protect someone: You often see children telling lies to protect their siblings from parental abuse.
- To protect oneself from harm: This is not about avoiding punishment. For example, a woman home alone may say her partner is with her to an unwanted threatening presence at the door.
- To make yourself look good: People may exaggerate their abilities or make up stories to win admiration from others.
- Protecting the other person’s feelings: For example, saying you have a prior engagement to get out of going to a boring party.
- Hiding something embarrassing: Sometimes we tell lies to cover up an embarrassing incident.
- To keep something private: We may lie to prevent people from knowing our business. For example, not telling people your wife is pregnant because the couple wants to wait.
- To gain power and control: Dr. Ekman believes this is the most dangerous reason for lying and uses Hitler’s propaganda as an example.
Sometimes, merely understanding why a person lies can counteract the effects of lying. However, there can be no doubt that there are psychological effects of being lied to that can have serious consequences on our mental health.
Instead of putting up with habitual liars, surround yourself with people that you trust and make you feel good about yourself.
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