Would you have lied to a Nazi during WWII if you had been Jewish? Most of us probably would have, because the consequences of telling the truth would have been deadly.
This is an extreme example, but take it down dramatically. People often learn to distort or hide the truth when they fear dire consequences or over-reaction.
People learn to react to emotionally-dangerous circumstances in different ways. These ways include being rebellious, disappearing physically or emotionally, and being compliant, which may lead to lying.
Part of being compliant is adapting to what we think the other person wants in order not to arouse an adverse reaction. A compliant person might hide the truth or distort it in order to avoid hostility or to gain connection.
You won’t stop lying by pounding your fist on the table or by seething with anger. You’ll just cause others to avoid you and become more astute in their deviousness.
So if your family members hide the truth or lie to you in order to please or appease you, it’s worthwhile for you to look at whether your reactions have something to do with it. Consider whether you tend to react with a lot of drama, criticism, or hostility.
Ask yourself whether you can handle the truth.
Although you can’t guarantee truth-telling, the way to promote it is by being compassionate and reasonable. This doesn’t mean that there can’t be consequences for bad behavior. But if you generally respond with reasonable discussion and suitable consequences, people will be more willing to be honest with you.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD