Even before I first met with my wife, she’d told me an untruth: she lied about her age, saying she was a year older than she actually was. Of course this wasn’t a deal-breaking lie, just a simple error. When you get to a certain age, the memory can play tricks and the maths becomes more of a challenge. Twelve happy years on and it’s still a shared joke.

I’m something of a reductionist, so I like to distil stuff to find the essences. For example, I once wrote about Undue Friendliness, since this seems frequently to be a pre-cursor to manipulation.

Another feature which appears to reveal a common thread is deception, either by changing facts or not declaring them.

I counted 29 alternatives for the word lie in my Roget’s Thesaurus and that didn’t include “alternative facts” or “porky”. Lying is sadly commonplace.

Since deception, of any sort or degree, is embedded in undue influence, we need to be aware of that almost unconscious red flag that goes up when we first encounter an untruth in any situation where we are expected to do something or change something. Be aware that it’s so tempting to down-play the relevance of a “tiny” lie, or even assume that you haven’t understood properly. Lying has a spectrum of effect, often starting very small, and building in small steps.

“We would like you to give an opinion on our new hotel…” leads to spending a fortune on timeshare. The “tiny” lie was that the opinion was never the real intent.

“It’s just a great fun weekend with lots of cool people…” leads to cult indoctrination. The tiny deceit there was the omission of the purpose.

“We have a great investment plan…” leads to losing your money in a Ponzi scheme. The lie there is too obvious to mention.

“We can help with your problem…” leads to spending a fortune on therapy for all the “new” problems found, even though the original problem was never properly addressed. To keep this one going requires compound lying, like explanations of why there’s been no progress – yet.

“I’m just like you. I love animals…”

So, be careful about “tiny” deceptions; they could lead to tragedy.

Editor's Note: While we at OMF value all free expression of opinion, the views expressed by our contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OMF, its board members, or trustees.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Do you have a story about deception that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!