Most of us tell little white lies – say, telling your husband you don’t mind if he watches football. Or pretending to like your girlfriend’s too-short haircut, even though it’ll take months to grow out. But the number of lies told is increasing. And they’re rarely the little white lies we use to be kind. They’re big lies that are costing us, financially, emotionally and psychologically.

That’s according to Pamela Meyer, CEO of Calibrate, a leading deception detection training company based in Washington DC. She’s the author of the book, Liespotting, and here are some examples she gives of destructive lies:

  • Experts estimate most businesses lose 5% of their annual income to fraud.
  • And that 1-in-5 employees know about fraud in their workplace, but would never report it.
  • One third of all résumés contains false information. Like the recent Yale football coach who “finessed” his résumé, and was fired just days after being hired.
  • And 1-in-4 people believe it’s okay to lie to an insurance company. Like, saying someone hit your parked car, even though you backed into a tree. Those fraudulent payouts are raising insurance rates for everyone.

Experts say that – on any given day - we’re lied to anywhere from 10 to 200 times. In one study, strangers who’d just met lied 3 times in the first 10 minutes. Even more disturbing – the participants overwhelmingly believed that they’d been completely truthful. Until they saw tapes of themselves lying about everything from where they went to school, to what they do for a living, to the hobbies they like. Which means that lying has become so commonplace, and so automatic, that we don’t even realize we’re lying.

So, how can we live a more truthful life? Here’s what Meyer suggests:

  • Start by being honest with yourself – even about the bad stuff. Like, your pants didn’t shrink in the dryer – you gained a few pounds.
  • Then, before you speak, ask yourself: What’s my motivation for saying something that’s not true? Do I want to be liked? To look more important?
  • Think about this: what’s the worst that can happen if you admit you didn’t go to Stanford, you’ve never met George Clooney and you’ve never climbed the Himalayas?
  • And, if you want other people to be more honest with you – give them to opportunity. Say something like, “I know this is a difficult conversation, but I’d rather hear the truth, no matter how much it hurts.” You can also have more conversations face to face – because people are less likely to lie to someone’s face, when they know they’re being scrutinized – versus a text message or phone call.

But keep this in mind: it’s not true that a liar won’t look you in the eye. They’ll often stare you down, check your face to see if you can read what they’re thinking, and will purposefully look you in the eye in order to prove truthfulness. So, be on the lookout for those clues. In reality, honest people only look others in the eye 60% of the time.

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