Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

The truth about lies?

Martin, a former neighbour of mine was summoned to see the headmaster at his ten year old son’s school.

 The head came straight out with it: “Your son has been telling lies and we are not happy about that”.

 Martin swiftly and firmly replied “If my son is telling lies, he must be afraid. Why is my son afraid here in your school?”

 When this incident was recounted to me, it hit me square between the eyes. Such a simple assertion, yet so powerful. People usually tell lies when they are fearful. Think back to times when you have been untruthful and, chances are that you were afraid of something or other. This has certainly been the case for me!

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I condone lying, more trying to understand why it happens. Let’s face it, there certainly appears to be a lot of it going on in public life let alone elsewhere. In fact, it amazes me that so many of our institutions aren’t awash with people with their pants constantly on fire.*

 If lying goes on say, within your place of work then there is a good chance that those who are telling the lies are afraid. If the organisation or department is run in such a fashion that people feel this way, then the implications can be huge: lack of trust, zero motivation, high stress levels, mediocre or poor performance to name a few.


 I sometimes dub the word  “fear” the corporate four letter F word. I’d go as far as to say that it is far more insiduous and destructive than the other, better known F word. Fear will spawn all manner of counter-productive behaviours as well as telling porkie pies. Some of these will be touched on in future posts, I’m sure.

 Rather than judge the employee’s  lying behaviour out of hand, the responsible organisation or manager will look at themselves and ask “Might we be doing something to contribute to this? Is the person who is lying the problem or is it less simple than that? How can we provide an environment where this is less likely to happen?”

 Questions that headmaster will have asked himself following his meeting with Martin? I’d like to think he did.

* reference to traditional children’s rhyme: “Liar, liar pants on fire”


3 Responses to “The truth about lies?”

  1. Hi Chris,

    Interesting thought this one. Complex issue too! Now obviously I have very little info about the child or the situation, however the cynic in me is left wondering whether the child is afraid of the consequences at school, or the consequences if his parents find out. Also, there is a possibility that the child has been excused his lies at home (or they have been ignored or missed) and has developed a strategy that he believes serves him. In that instance, it’s probably not fear that is driving him, but the fact that the child has gotten what they want by saying whatever they want.

    It’s really dangerous for a child of 10 to be labelled as a liar. It can easily lead to the child taking on more of the habits and behaviours of an adult liar. It’s much easier to handle if it’s described as “tricking” or “teasing” – so for example if a teacher has a child whom they know to be lying, it’s a really easy thing to say “I think you’re teasing me” – it gives a window to the child to accept responsibility for their lie (or tease) and tell the truth. Instead of the child being in trouble (and the teacher being angry), the teacher can now thank them for telling the truth and then deal calmly with whatever the problem really is. Kids pretty quickly work out that it’s ok to tell the truth if they are given the right environment in which to speak it.

  2. Thanks Dan. Interesting stuff. Impressed with the “teasing” strategy you put forward as opposed to the more draconian accusations of lying. This, of course can set the tone for future behaviours in adulthood whether at work, at home or elsewhere. What concerns me is how it becomes a “given” that we all lie and that it is a part and parcel of daily life as if there is no alternative. I agree that fear does not underpin every lie, but all too often it does.

  3. […] a previous post back in January 2011 –  “The truth about lies?”,  I spoke about how most lies find their source in fear. I stand by that. The whopper I told the […]

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