5

Someone I am close to is repeatedly being untruthful towards me, in the sense that they are "making up" events, usually for the sake of empathy.

The first instance where I noticed they were being untruthful was when we were both in a mostly empty tram, just two other people somewhat close to us, who were talking about a concert they had both attended. After we left the tram, my friend insisted that one of the two strangers was mocking them. I asked them to clarify, and they said they were mocking their height, their hair, their looks in general. I asked in what way, and they just repeated that one of the strangers mocked them. I said no such thing happened, that the strangers were talking about a concert, but my friend insisted that they were being mocked. They also reacted very poorly through me not believing the supposed transgression, saying that I implied they were lying or "being a liar".

Further such instances happened, where my friend claimed a stranger had accosted or mocked them. The claims of what supposedly happened ranged from a somewhat believable "Someone looked at me weird. I'm sure he found me ugly." to an obviously fabricated story where countless random strangers pointed at them and laughed at them.

The most damning evidence that my friend's claims were false was that they refused to give any detail about the supposed incident. They couldn't recall what someone supposedly said, only how it made them feel. They couldn't recall the order of events, only that it ended with them being a victim.

I don't want to say my friend is lying about these events, because I believe they genuinely believe these things happened. I've done some research into this kind behavior and I believe it is a possibility that my friend may be suffering from a mental disorder. I'm not a psychologist, so I'm certainly not equipped with diagnosing someone, but I believe them talking to a psychologist may be beneficial. However, when I brought these things up, my friend reacted very poorly, claiming that I was accusing them of "being insane".

To Summarize

  • My friend repeatedly claimed that random strangers accosted or mocked them.
  • These claims are either false or boldly exaggerated.
  • Saying that I don't believe her causes a very strong negative reaction.
  • I believe they may be suffering from a mental condition.
  • My friend gets very upset when I suggest that that may be the case.

My question

What specifically can I do to support them and to navigate our friendship? I don't want to agree with them, because the claims are obviously fabricated. Further, I believe that agreeing with my friend would only cause these feelings to amplify, because they lead to a positive response.

At the same time, disagreeing becomes increasingly harder. They claim I accuse them of being a liar, that I don't care about their feelings, etc.

I tried to navigate around the issue by talking about something else instead, but at times my friend insisted, which lead to them becoming upset again.

What can I do to support this friend without agreeing to their false claims and without damaging the relationship?

5
  • Would it help if you changed your friend's complaint (in your head) to "it felt like that person was secretly or codedly mocking me." ? That's not a lie. You don't try to tell them it didn't feel that way, you don't argue. But you help your friend (if you want to) with the problem they are having. Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 16:29
  • 1
    @KateGregory I don't quite see how that would help. Even if the feelings of "I felt like someone was mocking me" is real, I don't want to act like that is what happened.
    – Guest
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 11:09
  • 1
    You don't have to. You can then say for example "they certainly hid that from me" or "how unpleasant to feel that way, you must be upset" or all kinds of things that are not "you are lying". You might be able to understand more about why they feel as they do, or show them their feelngs might not be accurate, or change the subject without extensive discussion of strangers and what they think or do. Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 12:44
  • @KateGregory I see what you mean. I'll try that and see how it goes.
    – Guest
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 12:50
  • 2
    I have someone who just has to lie. Not for any particular reason. You will look at the sky, it is blue, she will tell you it is green. There is no malice, no trying to gain an advantage, more like an illness. She's the loveliest person, except for the lying. Telling her is pointless. Whatever she says is true to her. What do you do? You live with it or you don't. Obviously you will be aware that whatever she says cannot be trusted, but apart from that she's fine.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 16:51

2 Answers 2

5

You have described a friend who is not fabricating anything at all, but struggling with low self-esteem (in assuming the worst). That's what is generating those awful paranoiac thoughts. Could well be suffering from schizophrenia like friends I've had.

Therefore, "obviously fabricated" is a bit judgey and heartless. Because the statements are frighteningly untrue does not mean your friend does not believe them - too well.

What to do? Empathize by listening to their worries. You don't have to say those fantasies are authentic, or to fight back since they're not.

As neither parent nor therapist, you are actually freer to hook their adult:

  • You can state that you didn't hear those rude, gossipy things, if you need a response. You can say you saw those folks and didn't interpret their actions as mocking, though sorry your friend did.
  • You can say it upsets you to hear such assumptions - that a stranger's funny look translates directly into mockery.
  • You can ask how you can help. If they come to you with their imagery, they must want something.
1
  • "not fabricating anything at all" -> Yes he is. Thats the whole issue. I agree that it might originate from self esteem issues, but that does not exclude fabricating things :)
    – Martijn
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 11:06
0

I have a friend who behaves similar. For lunch he had the best burger he ever ate, that evening he can say that hadn't had a burger in ages, certainly not for lunch, no.

This person projects to be a very secure individual, but from my observations that is not true, quite the opposite.

The issue we had, and I'm guessing you have to, is that they're 100% things happen the way they describe them. From their perspective you actually are accusing them of lying, as far as they're concerned, it is the truth.

Correcting mentioned friend had no effect, possibly making things worse actually, making them believe more firmly. Sortof getting dragged into the lie. Something in their head is sure that they're correct, the more you challenge it, the more (false) backstory gets created.

What worked for me was positive reenforcement:

  • I'd ignore the made up stuff, answering with things that are almost blunt, like 'sure', 'ok', 'didnt notice'.
  • Things I'd like I'd respond above average positively, put in a little effort.

I've gotten some feedback that they noticed he was more pleasant after spending some time with me and I personally like him more to. He is a good guy with good intensions, just a little social guidance :) This took weeks/months though, dont expect quick results.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.