A friend of mine asked me a question, which I answered. After 4 hours I got a message with "sorry I was busy doing homework, I'll come back to you tomorrow". While this on itself is not that big a problem, I have a bigger problem by the fact that I know that this person was gaming the whole day. I know this because I was a little bit bored and looked at some steam profiles of my friends to look for games to play. When I looked for a second round I saw the game time increase (which is only possible if someone is playing). I would have preferred if this person just said that he was gaming and just had no time to answer because of it.

Question

How do I ask someone to avoid lying because I prefer the truth?

Key points

  • Convey that I would have preferred the truth
  • I will give space, even if the person technically has the time to chat with me.

Notes

  • Big note: It was my friend who asked the question, not me.
  • Steam has an option to hide online status, which is used by the friend in question. I'm absolutely sure this person was gaming (and lied).
  • Messages are through text based medium
  • The game in question is a single player game where being AFK the whole day has no benefit.
  • I talk about a lot of private stuff with this friend, so finding out this lie really hurt my trust in this friend.
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Catija Mar 1 at 0:25

10 Answers 10

up vote 17 down vote accepted

I can think of a dozen different explanations that suggests that your friend wasn't lying, so directly confronting them about "their lie" might either shatter their trust on you (if you're wrong) as they'll think you're willing to accuse them of anything without trusting them, or will give them more reasons to lie, to cover up previous lies. Since you don't really know the full picture - you have your conclusion based on a single observation - I think it's best to approach a middle-ground.

Hey [friend name], don't want to be nosy, but I was worried about you the other day. When you mentioned doing your homework, I couldn't help but notice you were playing [game name] at the same time. Was there some other reason you didn't/couldn't talk to me? You know you can trust me, because so far I've been trusting you to be honest with me. We are friends, after all.

This way, you give room for the friend to explain themselves. If they really were busy, then they might explain it to you. There could be a plethora of reasons they might give to defend their case, and you need to be ready to accept them depending on how reasonable they sound:

  • "I forgot [game name] running. I thought I had turned off my computer last night."
  • "I wanted to get N hours in-game to get the [name] achievement."
  • "Huh? Steam must have bugged out - I closed the game hours before that."
  • "I let my [sibling/friend] play in my account while I studied."

If, however, you have determined that they were truly lying, try to assess why that happened. Perhaps there is a underlying motive behind it that you never considered? Maybe they felt you were pressuring them and needed a break? Perhaps they felt as though you were judging them too much, so they tried to hide what they were doing? Either way, it is crucial that you do not frame them; again, you don't know the full picture, and wrongly accusing them of anything will make them lose their trust on you instead. If they ask why you were so curious/snooping around/distrusting them, I suggest that you be honest this time:

I was worried you didn't trust me as much as I trust you. If you had lied/Your lie made me feel as though the trust bond in our friendship wasn't mutual.

Or

I felt that it wasn't fair that, while I've been honest all of the time, you could have/have lied to me.

Or something along those lines, always making sure to put the emphasis on how you felt. If they didn't lie, or if they felt they had good reasons to, then chances are you will have hurt their feelings. If that is the case, and if you value this friendship over your pride, an apology will fit well:

I'm sorry, I was overzealous/distrusting of you. I value our friendship and trust too much, and I was worried about what a lie between us might have meant. I hope we can continue on trusting each other and counting on each other for everything.


PERSONAL ADVICE:

Drop the matter. I don't think this was as big of an issue as you might be thinking. Maybe you can still talk about it with them, but personally I'd just pretend it never happened. Now, if this becomes recurring, then fair's fair, your reasons for questioning them would be sound and justified. But, while I'm not a fan of lies either, I'm also not a fan of losing friends/losing their trust/alienating them over smalls issues. At the end of the day, it's up to you to decide whether or not this is really worthy of an issue to tackle with such importance as you're giving it. Be very careful not to hurt their feelings.

  • 2
    Thank you for the thorough answer, I'll probably go with the personal advice. If it is recurring I'll also know what to do now :) – Peter Feb 27 at 19:19
  • 1
    Yeah, definitely do come back to this if this becomes a recurring problem, but even then, don't assume the worst. Who knows, maybe they're going through a personal struggle they'd rather hide because they can't cope with it properly? – HugoBDesigner Feb 27 at 19:33
  • Not assuming the worst is something I need to learn (I noticed that I actually do this way to fast). And yes I know for a fact this person has personal struggles, because he talked with me about that. – Peter Feb 27 at 19:37
  • I would have felt guilty for gaming, so I would have lied, too. – Magicsowon Feb 28 at 16:22
  • Not to mention that the occasional break is a good thing while studying. Steam rounds numbers, so maybe they just played 15 minutes but the increase looked like an hour (or whatever the current unit was). – Jonas Schäfer Mar 1 at 9:32

I would open with a candid discussion of keeping in touch and privacy.

You are leaping too quickly to call it a lie.

He did not say he only did homework, it is not a lie if the bulk of his activity was homework or even if only some of it was. How he spends his time is none of your business. Since you have no right to know that and are arguably out of line even asking, it is only a white lie at best and still preferable to a tart "none of your business". Which is what you'll get in the future if you raise the issue.

If the shoe were on the other foot...

You would feel very uncomfortable if he was examining your life with a microscope.

Lives just generally can't bear the weight of constant intrusion. Remember Ken Bone from the US presidential debates, launched into unintended celebrity? Turns out he was a little bit of a troll on Reddit and said some silly things... Boom, hero takes a fall. No one is perfect. Nobody's poop doesn't stink. You are virtually guaranteed to find something that doesn't look right. As such, hyper-examining another person's life is insufferably rude and a huge privacy violation.

If I disappear for 10 minutes and say some business took some extra paperwork, don't call me a liar. Nobody wants to know the business was #2.

But OK. You know what he does and want the truth, you tell him that. But for the above reasons he may find it off-putting to have to account to you for his use of his time. That's a discussion you will need to have with him. Mutual awareness vs privacy is something you will have to come together on, and define a "normal" that makes sense for both of you.

  • Good pointing out it could be taken really bad if I worded this, however I found this out by accident because I was bored, I actually looked at all my friends profiles and I'm just good at remembering numbers (technical study). There is a really big number at the top of the screen, I just remember those things for some reason. – Peter Feb 27 at 19:11
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    I like this answer, but be aware that if you go through with the last paragraph, your friend might feel pressure to explain himself to OP. You want the truth, but ideally, your friend is entitled to simply say "Sorry, I was busy", and any discussion about what he was doing could be had without the context of "explaining himself to you". – Clay07g Feb 27 at 19:55

I think the best way to go about this is to just tell him that, but in a friendly, almost endearing way:

Hey man, if you don't have time to talk, it's no big deal. Even if you were just gaming, you don't have to lie about it. We've all done it before... played a game and just forgot about everything else!

I suggest this because it doesn't make him out to be bad. It suggests that he made an honest mistake (which it easily could've been) and perhaps felt embarrassed that his gaming distracted him from responding to a friend.

No matter what you're going to risk him being defensive or generally just not taking to your comment/request well. Just be prepared for that.

How I'd handle it:

me: "Dude, you are busted."
him: "What?!?"
me: (while smiling) "Steam says you weren't doing homework at all. So how was CoD?"

At this point there are lots of possible responses. Either way, it broaches the subject in a non-threatening way without starting off with a belief of being lied to. The trick is to make sure you aren't coming across as a stalker... Which, I hope you weren't stalking them because that is clingy in a creepy way.

You are likely to offend or hurt your firend. Consider not brining this up.

From my experience if person accepts telling lies as part of their reality, there is rarely anything you can say that would change that.

If you decide to talk, do not accuse. Nobody likes that.

You don't really have a proof. You might think you do, but you don't. There could be a way you did not think of how game time can increase without him playing. People do not appreciate being accused rightly and especially wrongly, and you could be in the wrong here, despite feeling so sure that you are right. It is also quite possible that your friend was busy playing games and doing homework. When I concentrate on something, be it working, reading, playing a computer game or chatting with my friend I often prefer not to be disturbed, and when approached by a text message or chat, I can reply that I'm busy right now, because it's true. Yes, I can be busy playing games! He told you he was doing homework, and well may be he was at least a few minutes in these past 4 hours, so that would not be a lie.

Get on the same page.

If you insist on talking to him, set your expectation correctly. He is likely to change his behavior only if he already believes that there is something wrong with it. If he does not your chances of changing that is slim to none. You can have a talk with him about you core values in the context of friendship. You can explain to him that in a relationship you value honesty above all else. You can even admit, that you are more fussy at the subject than most people so even a small dishonesty riles you. Get him to tell you his point of view. Ask him when he thinks a lie is justified, get on the same page.

People lie. To some of them you already developed attachment. Learn to deal with it.

This leads me to the last point. It's likely that in the course of your life you will meet many people, some of which you will like, that have very different set of ideas from yours in regards to acceptability of lying. It is unrealistic to expect to change them all. It is also quite likely that you can find yourself attached to some of them, so excluding them on that basis could be painful. I don't appeal to you to lower your standard, I just urge you to think how you can make it easier on yourself when a situation like this presents itself. I found that having a bit of tolerance helps. In many cases you won't have proof, you will have suspicions. It may help to make a rule, that when you don't have a conclusive proof (and steam hours is not it) you give the other person a benefit of the doubt by assuming that they are not guilty unless proved otherwise. If you can sell yourself on that idea, I think you can immediately get a bit happier, like that current situation would not bother you for long because you'd assume that the person did not lie to you. I assure you, if you are lied to consistently and on many occasions it will stand out.

An untruth told only really becomes a "lie" if any of these apply:

  • if the person it is told to has reason to rely on being told the truth (it seems to be obvious to both of you that this is not the case between you)

  • if you have a right to the truth (eg if telling you the truth has been promised, or if it is about something that concerns YOU).

  • if you have a right to something the false statement is about (eg if it is about money owed. "his time" might NOT be included in that list!).

  • 1
    A lie is a lie, regardless of why it was told. The only thing that is required for a statement to be a lie is that the person making the claim knowingly gives false information. I think the real question here is whether it's a big deal the OP's friend lied or not, and your answer addresses that pretty well. – Mage Xy Feb 28 at 15:57

Here is what you can figure out/should understand:

  • A) They didn't want you to know they were gaming (embarrassment?),
  • B) Many/Most people find "White lies" acceptable.
  • C) You won't make them change and an accusation will harm your relationship.

I wouldn't bring it up again--but REMEMBER their behavior pattern. Never rely on/trust what this person says as fact, it may be true, but automatic trust is out of the question.

Most people are willing to throw out a "I was doing school work" instead of "I was playing a game", this alone isn't necessarily a big deal it just means that they don't think it's any of your business.

If you see ANY lying, however, start paying attention because some people are pathological liars who will lie by default and are so earnest that the lies can be difficult to see (I think they tend to believe them)--I don't understand it, but I've met quite a few. If you see a pattern of lying on things that they don't even need to lie about then remember it because absolutely anything they say is more likely a lie than not.

So here are some types of behavior you should track and probably won't change:

  • People who can be trusted to always tell the truth by default--they are somewhat rare finds.
  • Expect a few small lies now and then from most people.
  • Some will lie to manipulate you to get what they want.
  • Some are pathological and lie for no reason whatsoever.

Remember what category people are in so you know how much weight to give their statements in the future. The first two categories are fine, the last two categories you want to be VERY careful of!

Remember to treasure your integrity with others as well--once lost with any individual it can't ever truly be regained (In their eyes).

  • Even though this answer describes different types of personalities quite well, I'm afraid this doesn't provide an answer to the question about asking a friend not to lie. Perhaps we can assume that this friend is type II ("small lies now and then") and you can provide some lines on how to talk to them about lying? – user2851843 Feb 28 at 7:57
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    My answer is telling him exactly how to respond--do not! I've done this, it will not change the behavior of his friend (or if it does, it will only be superficial). Instead, understand his friends behavior and expect more of the same, you cannot change him, only yourself, and a confrontation will not serve anything. In each category, either the person doesn't think he's doing anything wrong or he feels guilty. If it's the former, he will ignore you, the latter he will attack you (the most common response to being confronted with something you already feel guilty about) – Bill K Feb 28 at 16:57

There are other answers addressing whether or not the person may actually be lying and whether you have any right to be prying into their life so my answer will focus on whether them lying (if they are) is even a problem.

Both my friend and I are slightly introverted and sometimes when I ask them to do something they'll say something like they're busy doing assignments. Usually this is not actually the case and they actually just don't want to talk right now but it is easier for both of us if we pretend that they're busy.

To avoid lies, the alternative would be them saying something like "Sorry I don't want to talk to you right now." which comes off as almost hostile, which I believe is worse than the minor falsehood told.

In conclusion, minor lies to preserve social niceties are justified, when the truth would be hurtful.

  1. Accusing someone of lying doesn't go over well.

  2. Snooping (aka invading privacy) on someone doesn't go over well.

  3. They will claim the game was running in the background, making you the only one who's wrong. And contrary to your belief, people quite frequently let single player games idle in the background.

  4. If someone is busy - even if that means playing a game - that is the very opposite of "the person [...] has the time to chat with me." Demanding attention will cause people to avoid the demanding person.

  5. If you are known get mad at people because they play a game instead of chatting with you, these people have 4 options: 1. Comply. 2. Don't give a f* if you're mad. 3. Claim they were doing another activity. 4. Ignore you. - Number 3 is probably the best outcome for you out of these 4.


That said, what can you do to improve the situation?

  1. Accept that people occasionally prefer other activities to chatting with you.
  2. Convey that you're not offended or disappointed if they play a game, so they do not feel the need to bend the truth.
  3. Learn to not be so easily offended. White lies are part of human relationships, even - or especially - close ones.

If you really want to confront people you can attempt to do so jokingly, but if you do so regularly it becomes transparent and offensive.

E.g.

Ah homework. I leveled up 3 times doing homework yesterday. You?

"How do I ask someone to avoid lying because I prefer the truth?"

First of all, you don't need to tell anybody that you prefer the truth over lies. Everybody wants to be told the truth, and while I also abhor lying there is the opinion among some that if we all knew the whole truth about everything we wouldn't be able to handle it.

For example, you'd probably say that you'd want to know if a so-called "friend" was being nice to your face, but constantly slandering you behind your back, because you'd then know they weren't a loyal friend and you'd likely ditch them. But if you knew everything your friends said about you in private you'd end up getting hurt by all the little things that they might find irritating about you but still like you anyway, which is kind of what friendship is all about.

So you've stumbled onto the fact your friend said he was doing homework when actually he was gaming, and now you're trying to deal with being told a lie. But the lie itself didn't really affect you in any major way, other than he didn't respond to online messages. He didn't use it to get out of an arrangement with you or anything like that. This is a matter of principle for you.

There are a few possibilities:

  1. He may have been "lying to himself" as much as anything. Perhaps he should have been doing homework but was procrastinating playing games. So his response to you wasn't actually a lie because that is what his time was earmarked for.
  2. He wasn't lying. Maybe he was gaming a bit, doing a bit of homework, coming back to his game... or maybe someone else (a friend, a sibling) was gaming on his device whilst logged in with his profile?

If you confront him about lying and he wasn't then you may do more damage to your friendship than a lie of these proportions really ought to.

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