Why should people lie because they are sick

Lies make you sick and lonely

Everything is fine, I'm fine! This is the most common lie people tell one another. In addition to all sorts of false excuses ("I had no cell phone reception", "I was stuck in a traffic jam"), swindles such as "You have lost weight" are among the top everyday lies that a survey by the Science Museum of London lists.

A representative survey by the market research institute Splendid Research assumes that almost 60 percent of Germans lie every day. Lying is not a German, but a global phenomenon. Research suggests that most people will untruth at least once during a ten-minute conversation. It is difficult to say whether these numbers are correct. After all, for their surveys, the researchers rely on the test subjects to tell the truth when it comes to their lies.

Tit for tat

"I lie so that my mother is satisfied," wrote a Facebook user after Deutsche Welle asked its users the reasons for their dishonesty. For 49 percent of the Germans surveyed, cheering someone up or making them happy is a valid reason to lie. "Human interaction only works well if you don't damage the self-worth of others," says Marc-André Reinhard, social psychologist at the University of Kassel. A society without lies is therefore inconceivable. "We are very sensitive when it comes to negative information about ourselves that damages our self-image." And because the truth often hurts, we stick to the little lies.

So we'd rather praise the friend's new hairstyle rather than tell her it's hideous. In return, she may not say, "But you've gotten fat." The calculation goes like this: if you respect my self-worth, I respect yours.

Less lies: Less headache and depression

So, cheers for the lie? It's not that easy. Because too many lies make you sick. The same little falsehoods we tell to please others or to protect ourselves can harm us both mentally and physically. Depending on the extent of the lying, it can be very exhausting to have to constantly pretend something. A study by the American Psychology Association, led by psychologist Anita Kelly, showed that less lying apparently leads to better health.

Permanent dishonesty can lead to headaches, anxiety, and depression

The scientists instructed a group of people to avoid as many so-called "white lies" as possible. This includes not only false excuses and protective claims, but also exaggerations that are supposed to make you look more positive and interesting. Using a control group that continued to dizzy through everyday life, the researchers checked to what extent the well-being and health of the test subjects changed with the reduced lying.

After ten weeks, they reported that they were less tense, melancholy, or depressed - and physical symptoms such as headaches were less or less likely to go away. In addition, the interpersonal relationships between the test subjects had not deteriorated due to the lower number of lies - on the contrary, they deepened and improved.

Lies for love

"I'm afraid that I will no longer be liked or loved, that's why I lie," writes another Facebook user. Every exaggeration, every excuse, every false smile therefore serves not only to protect the self-worth of another person, but above all to protect our own person. After all, we all want to be liked and belong.

But although we are all constantly teasing, we basically have the expectation that the other person will be honest with us. The authors of the study assume that people unconsciously perceive when this expectation is not met. Too many lies create distance and sow distrust between people.

A little lie avoids many a conflict, but also keeps those to whom we want to be close at a distance

However, if we are able - albeit unconsciously - to recognize that someone is exaggerating, talking themselves out or putting on a fake smile, then all of the dishonesty will at least partially fail. This may save us a lot of conflict, but people we actually want to be close to prefer to keep their distance.

We need our lies on the one hand to avoid getting into conflict with every work colleague, on the other hand the falsehood harms our health and our desire for close ties with other people. So what should we do?

Saying whatever is on your mind anytime, anywhere is not the only alternative to lying. The psychologist Kelly suggests: Less is more. Less exaggeration, fewer excuses. Instead, maybe just say "I'm sorry". It can also help, say the scientists, to forbid lying. Those who do this avoid doing things that they later have to lie about.

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    Author: Elisabeth Yorck