How To Navigate Liars
If someone is being dishonest with you, no amount of communication on your part will compel them to be straight and honest. People who choose to dodge and evade responsibility for their actions (or inactions) are not capable of being in a relationship. It is easy for well-intending people to believe at first that the miscommunication is a matter of needing to clarify an issue. But after the 2nd or 3rd honest effort, if what we have to say is still not being heard, it can only be because it is disagreed with and will never be heard.
The only way to navigate communication with someone who is lying to you is to grieve the loss and distance yourself from that level of connection. If someone can not hear us it is tempting to try again and again to be heard. If miscommunication continues, we could easily find ourselves in compulsive, reactionary frustration with them. To preserve our composure and save our valuable energy, we must suffer the loss and disappointment and stop putting effort into communicating with them. We must release the desire to be in harmony with that person and learn to live with the disconnect. Maybe communication will improve. But we can not put more effort in than what we are getting back. A healthy relationship does not ask someone else to over-function. If you feel you are putting more effort into the dynamic than you are getting back, you can not ask them to give more. That choice is theirs. You can only adjust the amount of energy you do give to equal the efforts on both sides. If someone is not being straight with us, we need to give less. Giving more will not make them change. Giving less will also not make them change. Nothing we can do will make another person change if they do not want to let us in. The only option is to view them as a force of nature, like fire or water, and adjust our distance as we see fit. Fire and water are useful when we respect their properties. Too close and we burn or drown. Too far away and we freeze or dry up completely.
Communication between two people is not complicated. But it is also not easy because it requires that both parties listen without defense or aggression. Communication requires a desire to support and understand and care about the pain or challenge another person is going through. Each must receive the other’s perspective and let that perspective influence them. This is called empathy and it is what enables another person to feel understood and supported. When we do not let another person’s perspective influence our own behavior we do not connect and can not harmonize.
Harmony is optional in life and harmonizing does not necessarily bring happiness. It is possible to harmonize with destructive forces and become a part of that force if we are not aware of our first responsibility to harmonize with our own inner guidance system. Even when we are in error and our guidance system steers us in the wrong direction, our first loyalty must be to support that navigation process. If we empower others to advise us or give us instructions on how to make decisions, we will suffer greatly. A supportive relationship honors both people’s inherent self-reliance. True, enlightened communication is not aiming for harmony with another person. It is aiming for the discovery of what is true between two people with the hope that both people are dedicated to embracing the truth and thus continuing the relationship. If one person does not bring the truth to the table and evades when engaged in an honest investigation of a situation, no amount of words or explanation will reach them. If someone does not want to see what is true, nothing can make them see it.
The truth is, they do see it. They have no choice but to see it. They are then choosing to ignore what they see and describe to themselves a different situation which they defend passionately.
For me to know what is true in a situation, I do not need anyone else to agree. Truth has nothing to do with agreement. The heartache we often feel when we slowly realize that someone is not owning up to their part of miscommunication can often be so strong that we compromise our integrity just to put an end to that pain. But we are only delaying the inevitable. Sooner or later, just as oil must rise to the surface of water, we must follow what is true for our perspective, with or without the others who have accompanied us thus far on our journey.
Releasing a need to be understood by others releases a tremendous stress but how we release that need can be done with resentment or with compassion. Concluding that “no one will ever understand so why bother” is not the same as actually releasing the need to be understood. If you think of someone you barely know, like say the person in front of you in line at the store, you can sense what a healthy indifference feels like. We do not need that person to understand us and we are not upset that they don’t. We are in a state of peaceful indifference with them.
You may say that it is easy to feel peaceful indifference with strangers but not possible to have such indifference with the people who are in our lives every day. I’d challenge that belief and even suggest that it is actually not possible to truly ever know anyone because we are (all of us) in a constant state of change and evolution. Your husband or wife or partner are not who they were yesterday. When we make assumptions about who we think someone is and what we think they are going to say or do, we limit how we know them and limit their ability to change how they relate to us. Better is to realize that we are meeting everyone, always for the first time in each single moment.
Whatever we are asking from other people is what we really need to give ourselves. If I want someone to understand me I am really wanting myself (my conflicted self) to understand and accept me- not that person, who is really just a stranger to me. That goes for husbands and wives too. Everyone is a stranger to us no matter how long they’ve known us because we change. We are not who we used to be and often, we ourselves do not know who we’ve become.
In one lifetime we live many many lives and we are many different people. It can be quite painful to realize how different we have become from our previous perceptions. A desire to avoid that pain can compel dishonesty. So that in the same way we dodge and lie to others, we dodge and lie to ourselves- to an audience of one which is no way to live.
Acknowledging the truth requires acknowledging weakness and error. Some people have certain topics they are comfortable acknowledging error with but who will in no way acknowledge error in the areas that truly matter. People are master evaders. This is part of our nature in the same way it is part of the nature of fire to burn. When we recognize evasive properties in others, like fire, we must maintain a productive distance. There is no way to erradicate the natural property of evasion from the human character in the same way fire will never not be hot. We simply take note of what a useful proximity is in relation to those natural forces.
So when you suspect someone is being evasive, and communication has not brought your wariness to ease, it is time to acknowledge the fire at play and distance yourself. Perhaps conditions will change, but conserving your own energy is the top priority.
When something is not the way we want it, it is a common tactic for people to over function- to put more effort and energy into a situation than the situation warrants in the hopes that our energies will eventually be matched. They will not be matched. It is our responsibility to put forth only the energy that a given situation generates. If no energy is generated from a dynamic, working from reserves will only delay the inevitable disconnect and will leave you unnecessarily exhausted.
Our selves are the only company we will always ever keep. That relationship needs to be given priority over all other relationships. A relationship with another person or with ourselves is an act of honesty.
Honesty leads to less pain.