The Different Types of Liars and How to Deal with Them

Regardless of who you are, it is impossible to not come across a person who lies. There are many different types of liars. Lies can be insignificant “white lies” or serious, hurtful, bold-faced lies. Regardless of the different types of liars, lying is one of the most common things that injure relationships.

Determining if someone has lied is as simple as checking facts, but there are other ways. For example, reading a person’s body language, sentence structure, or paying close attention to the difference between intonations of a statement will tell you if a person is lying.

So, this begs the question… Why do people lie? Some people dwell in self-preservation whereas others are habitual liars. Regardless of the reason, there are different psychological reasons for why people tell lies.

What is Lying?

It may be a bit of an understatement to say that lying is the art of deception; however, sometimes there are ways of telling the truth that might be untruthful at the end of the interaction. When a person lies, there is a level of self-protection they are working towards. These are often the moments when a person’s true character becomes apparent.

For example, a person who tells the truth even though it “protects” them to lie is a person with high character. Lying often comes with an embedded paradox: If you tell the truth, you may be guaranteed a worse outcome than if you lie. But, if you lie and are caught, then the outcome may be worse than the truth.

But, what if you can get away with it?

Lie Definition

The definition of a lie is “an intentionally false statement.” There’s a lot to unpack there. Of course, there are different degrees of lying or types of lies people tell. For example, claiming to have the ability to play a twelve-string guitar is much more benign of a lie than claiming to be a messenger of Allah delivering peace and blessings.

Sadly, for the person claiming to be a holy prophet, that particular lie can cause distress to more people than claiming to play a speciality guitar. There are also many studies in classical logic and non-classical logics on lying. Ultimately, lying comes back to the initial definition: an intentionally false statement.

Embellish Definition

Embellishment is a bit different than lying. There is still intentional falsification, but embellishment often comes with an element of truth.

For example, if someone likes to fish but they are in the company of people who are against fishing, then he or she may claim to be a “capture and release” fisherman—or woman. If he or she sometimes releases the catch, then there is truth to it; however, there are shades to the truth. If someone only releases fish that they are not allowed to catch, then yes, they do “capture and release” but haven’t told the whole story.

Embellishments can be a bit difficult to follow and pose a bit of an ethical conundrum. A big giveaway of whether someone is an avid embellisher is often in their stories. Their stories usually contain self-referential sentences.

Another method in which the embellisher works their art is by using the liar paradox. By saying that nothing they say is true, everything they say is true. That said, if you notice someone embellishes, the simple way to get at the truth is to understand that it’s usually the least impressive part of the tale.

Different Types of Liars

Not all liars are the same, there are different types of lying personalities or disorders. For some, compulsive lying could be symptomatic of a personality disorder. For example, those who speak in self-referential sentences may not be embellishers, but rather might be suffering from narcissistic personality disorder.

There are pathetic liars, which involve people using lies to elicit a pathos response. However, the different types of liars include pathological liars, compulsive liars, and the sociopath. There are also occasional liars. These people who lie on occasion usually tell “white lies” that are essentially meaningless.

Pathological Liars

Pathological liars are people who lie as their response to any stimuli. These people are “good liars” because they practice constant lying and making up stories so often that it becomes difficult to detect their falsehoods.

The proper name for a pathological liar is pseudologia fantastica. Most pathological liars will avoid eye contact; instead, they will fix their gaze upon you. For these types of liars, pathological lying is a defense mechanism. Lying is a way to avoid something severe in their lives, such as abuse. It is a way to extricate themselves from a bad situation. Of course, these aren’t excuses for lying but it can be helpful to understand why some people lie.

Furthermore, if you catch a pathological liar spinning his or her web, it’s important to call them on it but do so in a non-aggressive fashion.

Compulsive Liars

Compulsive liars lie for many different reasons. Unlike the pathological liar, compulsive liars are easier to figure out. Their stories don’t usually have a ring of truth to them. They also display obvious lying behaviors, such as breaking out into a sweat, avoiding eye contact, rambling or tripping over their words.

Some types of compulsive liar personality disorder are the habitual liar and the narcissistic liar. Habitual liars are people who lie all the time. In fact, lying has become a habit.

Narcissistic liars are people usually dealing with a narcissistic personality disorder. These are people who usually make up grand stories about themselves, are prone to embellishment, and generally, make themselves out to be the conquering hero in all situations. Most of their stories are unbelievable or seem a bit far-fetched.

Sociopath Definition

Sociopathic liars can be difficult to deal with. Sociopaths lack empathy and do not care if their lies negatively impact or harm others. Sociopathic liars can be narcissistic, but this isn’t always the case. Sociopathic liars are master manipulators. They will tell you a story to get you to do what they want. Being the “target” for a sociopath likely feels awkward because it conflicts with a person’s sense of right and wrong. However, a sociopathic liar will continue to get you to see things their way until you given in to doing what they want.

Again, sociopaths do not feel empathy. So, if you tell a sociopath that you aren’t comfortable with something, the sociopath likely won’t care but will act as if they do.

How to Deal with Liars

There are several ways to deal with liars. Although it can be incredibly difficult, the best approach is to avoid reacting with anger or aggressively. In most cases, the liar is expecting this reaction and will use it as a diversion. Avoid going along with their version of events that is likely false. The key to dealing with liars is to politely but firmly confront them with the truth.

If you discover that someone has told a “white lie”, and the lie itself is so minuscule that it doesn’t merit confrontation, then it’s probably best to let it go.

Lying is admittedly a complex issue. The key to addressing liars is to understand the different types of liars. All in all, the best thing you can do is to remain confident in the truth. Sticking to the facts is the best way to deal with liars.


author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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