by Adrian Furnham Ph.D.

There are different types of lies. First, there is the white, social, “harmless”, flattering, expedient lie. These are supposed to result from the desire to improve social intercourse by protecting another person's feelings. It is thought of as common and even beneficial, and is unlikely to cause the teller embarrassment! For many, white lies do not count as lies at all and are even considered a sign of social skill.

Second, there is the professional, entertaining, necessary, salesman's lie: exaggerative lying that distorts or omits in the cause of business. For some this is good business practice, but that really depends on whether one is the buyer or the seller. Certainly a case can be made for not telling patients or subordinates how serious a situation is, as it would only make things worse. However, not to mention the very unhappy provenance of a particular product—for example, a car that has been in a major crash—may be considered a serious lie of omission.

But it is the third type of lie that is naturally of most concern to those in business; the illegal, pathological trickster's lie, the lie of omission, in which vital truths are omitted, and the lie of commission, in which facts are distorted. It is difficult to ascertain the number of these types of lies that occur in business, politics, or the media. Suffice it to say that their consequences can be great.

Many professionals—doctors, the police, lawyers, teachers—have to deliver bad news. It’s neither easy nor pleasant letting people know they are dying, a relative has died, they are going to prison, or they have failed an exam. It requires skill, tact and timing. Still some “duck out” of their responsibilities and, in effect, lie.

But the issue here is not about this type of lying. It is about deliberate dissent, dissembling, dissimulation. Telling "bare-faced" lies not to prevent hurt in others, but to prevent personally being caught...

Different Types of Lies

Critical Thinking: The Other National Deficit

"That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens