When you aren't getting the truth from someone, do you keep insisting until they eventually come clean? People who were raised to to admit the truth and accept consequences are often surprised to find that others use dishonesty to their advantage. It’s an ugly thing to say about somebody, but until you can see it, you could be a pawn in their game.
See if this sounds familiar. Someone offers a story or excuse for something that you know isn’t true. You present all the reasons why you question what they have said, and wait for them to agree. When they change the subject, sit there silently, or start to blame you, you question yourself.
Am I off base here?
Am I accusing someone of a lie without cause? Good people don’t do that.
What if I’m wrong? I don’t want to be rude.
Maybe it IS partially my fault. I should look at that.
I need more evidence before I can confront this.
I can’t be absolutely sure it’s a lie until they admit to it.
In your gut, you know it was a lie. You just can’t prove it.
Meanwhile, the dishonest person is watching you spin in circles and turn yourself inside out to be sure you don’t disrespect someone…yet they have completely succeeded in disrespecting you.
Here’s where shades of gray come in handy. A black and white orientation to honesty is not realistic if you’re dealing with a dishonest person. Honest people expect confusion to be cleared up, while dishonest people often get their way when things remain unclear, so they prefer shades of gray. Even in a courtroom, a case is proven “beyond a reasonable doubt”, which means there is always some shade of gray, some possibility that the verdict isn’t the complete truth.
If you can adjust to that scale, you can be more effective with those people.
Let’s put white on one side – completely true without a doubt, everything is clear, everything adds up, there is no confusion – and black on the other – completely false, proven with evidence and a clear confession. In between are shades of gray that start on the light side and get darker as they approach the black side of the scale.
Next, accept that once someone has decided to lie, there is a reason for it. Accordingly, they are far more likely to keep selling the lie than to switch gears and admit the truth, so we will never actually reach the black side of the scale where the confusion is cleared up. The persistent excuses, distractions, or defenses will continue to cloud the issue and intentionally keep the conversation in the gray area. If you insist on a confession, or some absolute confirmation that a lie was told, you will be stuck spinning in circles.
The trick is finding your “I don’t buy that” shade of gray. It’s dark enough for you to decide, beyond a reasonable doubt, that someone is not being honest with you. In that shade of gray is a new sense of self-respect. It represents an expectation that someone who wants your trust is responsible for providing enough consistency for you to believe what they are telling you. If you don’t feel like there is enough consistency to count on an unknown, then shift gears and put a stop to it.
Of course, this new level of self-respect will have to be stronger than your fear of conflict because telling someone that you just don’t have enough confidence in their story, or maybe in their track record, to count on what they are saying will often challenge a relationship to the breaking point. But when someone wants to start telling lies, isn’t that the time to walk away anyway? You can always leave the door open for a version of the story that you can count on...maybe the other party comes clean and your relationship is transformed for the better.
Working through this challenge will call you to stand up for yourself, maybe in a way that you've never done before. If you feel resistance or fear, then your own issues are coming forward and asking for attention. This is a good thing! Pursue that, and grow into a more confident version of yourself.
Meanwhile, pay attention when you feel confused or off-balance.
Question things that don’t make sense.
And when you give someone the benefit of the doubt, watch for confirmation that they deserved it.
Time to transcend! This blog series is intended to challenge you by reaching beyond the status quo. If you are feeling resistance, consider that your ego is coming forward and presenting you with an opportunity to grow. This is where the magic happens! I'm here to help.