Five Tips to Help You Decide How to React to a Lie

Lying damages your confidence, and becomes a source of negative emotions. We give you some tips to help you manage these types of situations.
Five Tips to Help You Decide How to React to a Lie
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

All of your social ties are built on the foundation of trust. Trust tells you whether an employee will do their job, whether a friend will be loyal, or if your partner will respect your relationship. When they lie to you, this fundamental pillar weakens, generating different emotions in you. In fact, deciding how to react to a lie isn’t easy. Therefore, in this article, we give you some helpful tips.

When you discover that a close person is lying to you, you don’t always have enough self-control to think before acting. Indeed, visceral and automatic reactions are extremely common in these cases, especially if you consider it to be a serious lie and you feel deeply offended and betrayed.

Once you manage to distance yourself and calm down, you need to work out what to do next. That’s when the following tips may be useful.

1. Analyze your relationship with the other person

This first point is essential when you’re deciding what to do. That’s because there’s a big difference between being lied to by someone you’ve only just met and a close relative. In the first instance, it’s probably an early warning sign for you to not continue with the relationship. However, in the case of a loved one, the solution isn’t so simple.

In the latter case, you need to work out if it’s the first time they’ve lied to you or whether it’s a repeating pattern.  At the same time, you might want to take certain other factors into account, like those we mention below, in order to decide what to do.

Woman feeling embarrassed

2. Assess the severity of the situation

It’s true that, regardless of the kind of lie, your trust is always damaged. However, someone who occasionally pretends to be doing something else because they don’t feel like going out is nowhere near as serious as a partner hiding an affair.

You’re responsible for deciding where to place your boundaries. Those lines that, if crossed, represent a point of no return in your relationship. Therefore, ask yourself if what’s happened goes beyond the limits of what’s acceptable to you.

3. Weigh up the possible causes before you react to a lie

It’s important to consider that a lie might occur for different reasons. Sometimes, a person is dishonest because they want to avoid an unwanted consequence or to obtain some kind of benefit. For instance, they may well lie to preserve their image and personal history in front of others.

These types of more selfish motivations are different from others derived from emotional or character deficiencies. For example, some people cheat because of a lack of self-esteem or a need to gain the recognition, admiration, and approval of others.

Thus, they invent details about important aspects of their life, in the hope that they won’t be discovered. Furthermore, if their tendency to lie is recurrent, it may be possible that they’re suffering from some underlying disorder that requires professional intervention.

In either case, the underlying reasons don’t ever justify the deception, nor should they force you to forgive and continue to be in contact with the person who lied to you. However, they can help you understand the situation more fully and know how to react.

4. Allow yourself to express your emotions

As we mentioned earlier, some people react to a lie abruptly and uncontrollably. On the other hand, there are those who fail to react or repress their feelings for various reasons. For example, perhaps they want to avoid making the situation worse or out of fear of losing the other. If this sounds like you, you need to know that it’s both necessary and healthy to allow yourself to feel and express what you feel.

Anger is a natural and necessary emotion that protects you and allows you to set boundaries. When someone betrays your trust it’s natural that you feel anger and you have to be able to express it. Of course, you should try to do it in an assertive and controlled way. In fact, your ultimate objective is to obtain an explanation from the other person and then seek solutions if you want to.

A woman wondering how to react to a lie from her partner.

5. Make a decision

The last step of reacting to a lie is making a decision. At this point, it’s important to remember that, by your actions, you teach others how to treat you. Therefore, ignoring the situation and continuing as if nothing has happened will, more than likely, only bring more lies in the future.

For this reason, you should converse with the other person, listen to them, and express your point of view. Then, decide if you need to establish certain boundaries or if you want to end the relationship between the two of you. It’ll largely depend on what’s happened in relation to the above tips.

At the end of the day, each situation has its own characteristics that you must take into account before reacting. In any case, try to develop self-control so as not to act in a way that you later might regret. However, equally, remember that you have the right to both feel and express yourself. Indeed, if you’ve been lied to, your trust will have to be restored, otherwise, your relationship will no longer work.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Maureira, F. (2016). La mentira y las narraciones que nos hacemos de nosotros mismos y de los demás. Ludus Vitalis18(33), 195-202.
  • DePaulo, B. (2015). Cómo y Porqué Mentimos. Babelcube Inc..

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.