May 7, 2008
Liar, liar pants on fire.
In the workplace we interact with all kinds of people. There are times when we are left with a feeling that something is just not quite right. Lucinda seemed to have had the most unremarkable life, yet would tell the most remarkable stories. The painful thing was that Lucinda didn't tell stories, she passed her fables off as the truth. "I was in a club in Los Angeles and I saw Bruce Willis". Possible. "We talked for a while". Less possible. "He asked me if I wanted his autograph". Yeah right.
We all tell a lie from time to time because we are human. Most people are very aware that they do not want to lie, and so it is avoided but still it sometimes happens. "I am late because of traffic" (but I am conveniently forgetting that I got stuck in traffic at the Starbucks' drive-thru).
However. much more serious is someone who fabricates stories or dissembles. They cannot really help themselves. It is a form of an impulse control disorder. They cannot resist the drive to lie and they are aware that their actions are harmful to others. Yet the urge to dissemble is so powerful that they can't resist it. The urge make them feel anxious, tense or aroused. To sooth these feelings they tell their story and it gives them a feeling of importance or pleasure, however later they feel guilt and self-loathing, but they will do it again, because the urge returns.
In the workplace dissemblers are hard to trust, because they are so comfortable with lying. To protect yourself with a liar, you need to immediately say that you don't believe what they are saying. Usually, compulsive liars will mumble something and move on. They don't like hearing that you know they are not telling the truth. Ask the liar why he/she is lying. We are often too nice and we allow people to get away with things that can eventually harm us or others. If a liar can and is willing to tell a fabricated story, they are also capable of telling harmful nonsense about you and you could find yourself responding to spurious accusations against yourself.
My mother had her own methods for dealing with fibbing. When I was still small and my fibs were really evident, she would tell me that she could see a black stripe across my forehead and it was getting darker. I believed in the black stripe for a long time and I don't think it did me any harm. It made me aware that I should be truthful. It gives me confidence that I am not ashamed to tell my mother about anything that I do in my life.
Coaches do not work with people with disorders but some are trained to recognize disorders and will refer the client to a psychologist. Unfortunately, people with disorders are very resistant to changing their behavior.