What a wonderful world it would be if everyone made a collective commitment to be completely truthful and trustworthy with each other. We can all hope that day will one day arrive. But in the meantime, we must resign ourselves to the fact that there are people who choose to be deceitful and devious.
So what should you do if you discover that someone—a coworker, a roommate, or especially a loved one—has been dishonest with you? Start here:
1. Resist the urge to let it slide. Ignoring devious behavior will only perpetuate unhealthy patterns. Staying silent will not honor yourself and won’t do anything to help the disingenuous person.
2. Weigh the impact. Ask yourself how the dishonest behavior has affected you. Every deceitful “transaction” costs you something. What was it?
3. Ponder your wisest approach. Before you move into action (or fly off the handle), take a deep breath and consider your options. A knee-jerk response may inflame an already heated situation.
4. Address the behavior. It’s best to stay focused on the actions—what was done and how it affected you. Finger-pointing and accusing, even if deserved, will put the person on the defensive and stifle any constructive conversation.
5. Ask direct questions. If you suspect someone has lied or manipulated, remember that you are entitled to the truth. Don’t drop the matter until you are satisfied with the answers.
6. Reject “minimalism.” Some people try to minimize dishonest behavior by trying to pass it off as a little white lie, a fib, or insisting it’s no big deal. Deceitful actions ARE a big deal and shouldn’t be shrugged off.
7. Determine if the person is willing to come clean. When confronted, lots of people try to cover it up with another lie, and then another. Damaged trust can be restored only when the person takes responsibility for his/her actions.
8. Get a second opinion. Those who traffic in untruths are masters of misdirection and misperception, leaving you thoroughly confused. Ask a trusted friend or counselor for a reality check so you can separate lies from truth.
9. Honor your instincts. Give yourself permission to respond in the way you feel is best. If you have doubts and misgivings about someone’s trustworthiness, listen closely to what your heart and head are telling you.
10. Refuse to be the scapegoat. Dishonest people will sometimes try to turn the tables and make you out to be the one with the problem, saying that you’re overreacting and reading into things. Don’t play along with that kind of manipulation.
11. Make your boundaries clear and hold to them. The best way to avoid future problems is to be direct and straightforward about your expectations.
12. Understand that dishonesty is usually not a one-time thing. Often, a person who will deceive you once will deceive you again.
13. Don’t become enmeshed. This means becoming overinvolved or overly responsible for the other person. You might be tempted to try to “fix” the situation. But you can only control your own actions.
14. Tell yourself the truth. Sometimes the best way to deal with a dishonest person is to make sure YOU are completely honest. Even if the other person does not know or care about your dedication to truthfulness, you will know and be proud of your integrity.
15. If all else fails, distance yourself from the deceiver. When you realize the other person is not willing to shoot straight with you and won’t take responsibility, there’s little chance trust can be regained. So walk away. If this means ending a dating relationship, so be it–there are too many good, honest people in the world to get yourself tangled up with someone who is dishonest with you.