Charlotte Grainger
December 16, 2014 2:03 pm

When a friend lies to you, it can shake your entire world. You have hand-chosen these people to be in your life, they are your extended family and oftentimes your closest confidants, so when they break your trust it can feel Earth shattering. But before you react, take a little time to reflect and think through what got you and your friend to this juncture. Stop. Breathe. Reflect rationally and you might just stop yourself from turning a crappy situation into an even crappier one. Here are a few steps to take when you find out your friend lied.

Step 1: Work out why they lied

Sometimes people lie to show off, sometimes people lie because they are being cruel, and sometimes people lie to spare your feelings. When people lie to purposely hurt you, you need to distance yourself from them immediately. If you think your friend lied to you to be mean, then that person is definitely not your friend. But if you can see through all your hurt and you think your friend’s lie was not out of malice, then you’re in a different situation.

If you and your friend are particularly close, the chances are that they were lying to protect your feelings. In fact, a 2004 study by Doctor Bella M. DePaulo suggests that people are less likely to lie to close friends than they are to acquaintances. According to the study, when people do lie to friends, they do so for altruistic reasons — meaning, they lie for what they perceive to be the good of their friends. Do you think that your friend might have lied to avoid upsetting you? It might not be the best excuse in the world, but it is way better than someone lying to hurt you

Step 2: Acknowledge your feelings

Your feelings matter. They matter an awful lot. Everybody has a right to their own emotions, and you shouldn’t try to stifle yours. If your friend has hurt you, you are allowed to be angry and you are 100% allowed to tell them how angry you are . . . eventually. You didn’t expect this to happen, and are likely in shock. Before you do anything about the situation, you need to give yourself some cooling off time.

By all means talk to other people about what happened, but don’t gossip or make the situation worse. Choose one friend who you trust to confide in so that you can have a good old vent. You need it right now. Emotional pain, like physical pain, takes time to heal. Once you have acknowledged and processed your feelings and taken a little time to yourself, you will be ready to really confront the matter.

Step 3: Understand that everyone lies (and that is a fact)

Newsflash: People lie. Think back on your personal history and I’m sure you can think of at least a handful of times when you’ve lied — white lies count too. According to Dr. DePaulo’s study people lie in one out of every three social encounters. People actually use lying as a way of dealing with society. If we went around telling people exactly what we thought of them, the world would be full of needless feuds.

Put yourself in your friend’s shoes. Now that you’ve admitted that you too have lied in your life, can you understand why your friend lied in this situation? Were they trying to protect you? If yes, then it might be worth cutting them a little slack (while still telling them why it hurt your feelings). If you don’t think they were protecting you then again it might be time to re-prioritize how important this person is in your life.

Step 4: Approach the situation with care

If you decide to approach your friend, approach with caution. People will often react defensively when you catch them lying so prepare for that.

Instead of getting angry, create a safe space so that you can talk. Don’t flat out say “I think you lied to me,” or worse still, “I know you lied.” Instead, say something like “I think there was some confusion there when you said [insert lie here].” Or, “I wanted to talk to you about [insert lie here].” Your friend will at this point either deny or apologize. Proceed from there.

Step 5: Forgive and forget

If you value your friendship, ultimately you need to forgive your friend. You can explain why the lie upset you so that your friend understands that this isn’t a situation you ever want to be in with them again. Once you have spoken your mind and they have apologized, you will need to move on. There is no point in pretending that you forgive someone, when you don’t. That old saying “forgive, but never forget” is ridiculous. You need to do both if you want to save your relationship. If this is the first time your friend has let you down, you should give them a second chance. Everyone makes mistakes, and we all deserve a chance to make things right. If this is the 20th time this particular “friend” has lied, then that’s another story altogether.

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