Lying: The Ultimate Manipulation Tactic

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Disordered characters don’t want you to know what they’re all about or what they’re up to. Lying helps keep them one-up on you and a step ahead of you.

I’ve been posting a series of articles on certain relatively automatic behaviors that disturbed characters commonly engage in to manipulate others and resist accountability. Some of the tactics I’ve posted on include rationalization, minimization, and blaming or scapegoating:

By far, however, the most effective manipulation and responsibility-avoidance behavior is lying.

Disordered characters not only lie frequently, but they sometimes lie even when there appears no obvious or useful purpose for the lying. They are also expert at lying in a wide variety of ways, some of which are quite subtle.

For the disordered character, lying serves many purposes. But mainly, lying serves to give a manipulator an advantage over someone else. Disordered characters don’t want you to know what they’re all about or what they’re up to. That would level the playing field in your encounters with them. But disturbed characters want to be one-up on you and a step ahead of you. They want to keep you in the dark and keep you guessing. One of the best ways to do this is by deception.

There are so many ways to lie that it’s almost impossible to list them all. But disordered characters are very knowledgeable about even the most subtle and stealthy ways to lie and are artful in their use of the various forms of lying.

One subtle approach to lying is lying by omission. When someone wants to pull the wool over your eyes, they don’t have to make an obviously absurd or bogus claim. Many times, all they have to do is make sure they don’t tell the whole truth about something. It’s as simple as leaving out a very important detail or something crucial to understanding the whole picture. In my first book, In Sheep’s Clothing, I give an example of an aging salesman concerned about his job security who asked his boss if there were any plans to lay him off or fire him. His boss told him there were no such plans. But he didn’t tell him that his sales accounts were about to be shared with a new, younger employee and that soon he’d be in a position in which he might prefer early retirement as opposed to dwindling commissions. Sometimes, what a person doesn’t say or do can be a much more effective manipulation tool.

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Another type of subtle lying is the use of vagueness. When you confront a manipulator about an issue, they may give you an answer, but they might also be so vague about the details that you end up remaining largely in the dark. Sometimes, the disordered character can manipulate you effectively by doing just the opposite — by using specificity in a response in such a way that it may provide a limited answer to the question you’ve asked, but without providing additional detail that would better address the intent of your question.

Lying by distortion of crucial details provides one other way to obscure the bigger picture and mislead someone. In fact, when someone really wants to lie effectively, they’ll often recite a litany of true facts (all to give the impression that they’re on a truth-telling spree) while simultaneously leaving out a crucial detail or two or distorting the true nature of an important fact.

Lying is such a habit for disordered characters that sometimes they end up halfway believing their lies. That’s true not only for the lies they tell others, but also for the lies they tell themselves.

By lying so often about the reality of situations, the disturbed character obstructs and resists any chance that they will internalize the most essential principles of responsible conduct.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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