Why some people are dishonest and how to tell if they’re lying - tips from a life coach

Following the news that Martin Bashir used ‘deceitful’ methods to secure his interview with Diana, life coach Amana Walker considers the question of honesty – and how to tell if someone’s lying to you

Martin Bashir's determination to secure a scoop led him to use deception (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Let’s talk about honesty.

Why? Because after hearing about British Journalist, Martin Bashir, it’s clear that we have differing definitions.

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Honesty is that thing that we say we are and want to be - yet don’t always put into practice.

I’ve no doubt he led plenty of people to believe he was nothing but honest in order to get what he wanted (that coveted interview with Princess Diana), when in fact he was allegedly lying or at least, holding back the truth.

But why are some people dishonest?

Well often, they are lying to protect themselves – or others.

They lie because they are fearful, or because they want to impress or simply because lying is an easy way to satisfy a need – such as achieving success, personal gain or money. Unfortunately, if found out, not only is our faith in that person destroyed , but also in the company they work for even though most employees working there are good, honest, hardworking people - including for example, at the BBC where the whole company is now under a dark cloud of doubt and mistrust.

That’s how easy it is for one person to do something dishonest; influence others (at senior levels) and because they appear to be genuine and believable and have the promise of something very exciting to offer, they are allowed to carry on.

The good news is that not all dishonest people are bad, I mean haven’t you told any porky pies in your lifetime?

Oh, come on, yes you have – we all do, in fact we are telling ‘white lies’ every day:

‘Your hair looks nice’

‘Of course I remember you!’

‘I got stuck in traffic’

‘I love the present’

‘That was delicious’

The difference though, is that these relatively harmless ‘white lies’ – are said in order to please someone, pacify them or make them (and us) feel good.

The other kind are deeper and darker. They are lies that we tell for personal gain. The type we tell knowing that we are benefiting , regardless of what the consequence could be for the other person. This could (but not always) be a lie that puts someone – or lead to someone being put- in a dangerous position like, it seems, Bashir did with Diana.

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So how do we know who we can trust?

The short answer is, we don’t.

Of course, we can help ourselves, here’s how:

- Finding out as much as we can about the person, from people who we know well and trust

- Asking questions. Lots of them. And never being afraid to challenge the things they are saying

- Watching their body language – do they look you in the eye? do they appear sincere? are they trying too hard?

- Listening to any nagging doubts – has there been any negative comments or concerns raised about the person? What is your gut feel telling you?

- Take your time before getting closer or more involved with the person.

- Consider: what does this person stand to gain, and am I OK with that?

- Only do what you want to do

Trust builds over a period of time, and that means you’ll have more evidence to suggest that a person is honest and trustworthy, but I have to be honest with you – nothing is foolproof.

Some will find a way to get under your skin and into you heart, making it easier to be dishonest for their own gain and then take advantage of you.

There are some expertly deceptive people out there from all walks of life; the smartest are disguised as the most honest and credible.

You might even know one yourself.

If you do, never be afraid to speak up and speak out.

Amana Walker is a performance coach who works with a range of business leaders and sports professionals. More info at www.amanawalker.com

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