That’s a Lie!
That’s a Lie!
It is a phrase I hear often. Often the person who says it appears to be angry or scornful. Usually the other person becomes angry or defensive. The phase interferes with constructive communication. “That’s a lie” is received as a close cousin of “You are a liar.” Even people who know they are lying do not like to be called liars. Often, people do not think that they are lying when they say things that the other party believes are not true.
Different ways of phrasing dissent make it much easier to continue the conversation in a useful way. The next time you hear someone say something untrue, try “I remember that differently.” Or maybe “I think you are incorrect about that.” Or even “That’s hard for me to believe.” I like the first best, as it is the least likely to provoke an unproductive argument. Arguments are fine if they get you somewhere. They are useless or damaging when unproductive.
“I remember that differently” leaves room for each person to describe what they remember about how the parties behaved and who did what. After one says “You never help me put the kids to bed,” “That’s a lie” just starts an angry argument. “I remember that differently” lets each say what often happens. Then both may realize that one does most of the work, such as getting the kids to pick up their toys, changing the baby’s diaper, bathing the older child, and getting both kids into their pajamas; and then the second one gets to do the fun part, snuggling with the kids while reading a couple of bedtime stories. “You never help me” feels like the truth to the person who said it. To the person who usually reads the stories and tucks the kids in, “You never help me” sounds like a lie. Comparing memories lets both parties see why one felt angry. With their stories told, they can negotiate a more equitable way to handle bedtime routines. The result: a more harmonious relationship between the parents.
Parenthetically, most statements that include “never” or “always” are inaccurate, but the speaker is often unaware that he or she is voicing a lie.
Words are powerful. What you say and how you say it can make a big difference. If you have trouble arguing constructively, you may want to find a good counselor, mediator, or non-violent communication teacher to help you learn skills for negotiating.
The author, Virginia Colin, is a Professional Family Mediator certified by the Virginia Supreme Court. She is not an attorney or a therapist. For a free consultation about whether family mediation would be helpful for you, contact her at mediatorQ@gmail.com or 703 864 2101.