How to Confront Someone When You Believe They Are Deceiving You

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A tense moment between two women on a sofa. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Lightwavemedia/Getty Images)

Deception by others can leave you feeling unsteady and confused. If you think that someone may be deceiving you, you might want to confront that person to obtain a confession, to let him know that you are aware of the lies, or to prevent future lying behavior, according to executive coach Carol Kinsey Goman, in the Forbes article, "How to Deal With Liars at Work." Robert Feldman, author and professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst agrees, stating on his website that when you ignore a lie, in a sense, you become a liar yourself.

Step 1

Decide whether confrontation is the right approach. In her book, "Playing the Lying Game: Detecting and Dealing with Lies and Liars, From Occasional Fibbers to Frequent Fabricators," sociologist Gini Graham Scott suggests the decision to confront depends on the type of lie and your relationship to the person who you think is deceiving you. If it is a white lie, or a casual acquaintance, it may make more sense to let it pass. In more personal relationships, when lying can break trust and affect intimacy, confrontation is usually the right choice.

Step 2

Gather evidence in the event that you need to prove that deception occurred. In the Forbes article, "How to Deal With Liars at Work," executive coach Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. suggests collecting a paper or electronic trail of communication when dealing with deception at work. Similarly, keep documentation of the lies that a partner or spouse tells as you may need this evidence during divorce or custody proceedings.

Step 3

Try an indirect approach at confronting the lie. Graham Scott suggests being tactful and diplomatic so that the other person feels comfortable confessing to the lie. Offer hints that you know the truth, giving the other person a chance to retreat or change her story. Let her know that you question what she is saying, but also acknowledge that you could be wrong or that it might be a misunderstanding.

Step 4

Be direct in your approach if the person does not admit to the deception -- and if you feel that uncovering the deception is important to the future of your relationship. For example, in a business situation, Kinsey Goman suggests taking a "collaborative approach" and telling the other person that you need only accurate information to meet your business goals.

Tip

If you are concerned about the potential impact of exposing a liar -- or that your reputation could be at stake -- consider having a third party present during a confrontation to document what transpires.

Warning

Some people have psychological disorders that are at the root of their lying -- and these persons are not likely to admit to lying or change their behaviors. In the Psych Central article, "Pathological Lying: Symptom or Disease?" psychiatrist Charles Dike notes that pathological liars lie compulsively and often without any purpose -- and will continue to lie even when confronted. In the Psychology Today article, "Narcissism: Why It's So Rampant in Politics" clinical psychologist Leon Seltzer notes that those with narcissistic personality disorder come to believe their own lies - and will react defensively or even attack those who point out the inconsistencies in what they say. It is generally best to keep your distance from these personality types.

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