Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

The 20 Most Popular Lies We Tell Every Day

liesIt’s the political season, and charges of lying are flying.

But is there a difference between little lies (aka fibs, white lies, stretchers, dodges, evasions) and big lies (aka whoppers)?

And do we know why we lie?

The answers are “yes” and “for the most part.”

One study published in the Journal of Basic and Applied Psychology found that the average American lies three times in a 10 minute conversation. In another study, college students admitted lying between once and twice a day.

And in Great Britain, a survey revealed that men tell six lies a day while women average three. Men lied most about their drinking habits, while women tended to lie to hide their true feelings.

Three lies a day work out to around 90 a month or 1,100 a year. That’s a lot of hot air.

Lying as Self-Defense

Most prevarications fall under the category of little fibs. We tell them to avoid social conflict (“Lunch at Burger King sounds good to me.”) or hurting someone’s feelings (“What a lovely necktie!”). Generally, these lies do no harm and, in fact, make life easier.

So it was unsurprising that in the British study, 75 percent of respondents said it was “acceptable” to lie in order to spare someone’s feelings.

The bigger – and more destructive – lies aren’t intended to protect the social fabric. They’re told to protect our own self-image. When our ideal self is contradicted by reality, we lie to build ourselves up.

“We find that as soon as people feel that their self-esteem is threatened, they immediately begin to lie at higher levels,” says one psychologist.

20 Common Lies

  1. I’m fine, nothing’s wrong.
  2. I was stuck in traffic.
  3. You look great in that [insert article of clothing here].
  4. I only had one beer.
  5. My phone died.
  6. I had no way to contact you.
  7. I never got the message.
  8. I’ll call you right back.
  9. It didn’t cost that much.
  10. It was on sale.
  11. Oh, this old thing? I’ve had it for ages.
  12. I’m on the way.
  13. Thanks, it’s just what I’ve always wanted.
  14. You’ve lost weight.
  15. You haven’t changed a bit.
  16. I didn’t touch it.
  17. I have no idea where it is.
  18. I’ll try to make it.
  19. I have a headache.
  20. I would never lie to you.


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

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