Lifehacking Lying: 10 Devilishly Deceptive Ways to Be a Better Liar

By Jonathan Roseland

Update: Since writing this my views have changed on deception; applying sociopathic tactics and Machiavellian philosophy will ultimately screw you more in the long term. Honesty often entails upfront costs and immediate discomfort but ultimately yields more happiness, tranquility, and success. Although with reciprocity as my guiding principle, I have fewer qualms about enjoying the double pleasure of deceiving the deceivers -  to paraphrase Machiavelli.

Deception and use of half-truths are such a part of human nature that what's ultimately the most dishonest is to pretend that we are 'real' 100% of the time to everyone.

Lifehackers, happy sociopaths, and people with healthy egos understand that lying is an inevitable part of the human communication experience. According to

  • 60% of people lie at least once during a 10-minute conversation.
  • Men on average tell six lies a day to their partner, boss, or colleagues. Women tell eight.
  • 31% of people lie on their resumes.

Inevitably you are going to lie in ways big and small. This article will arm you with some clever ways to lie more effectively and less destructively without breaking the 11th commandment; getting caught.

The cardinal rule of effective lying

Truth lies

The truth is the best tool in the service of lies.

A great novelist once said that the best fiction is 80% real (or did he? Maybe I just made that up). Indeed your lies should always be anchored in reality. The most difficult to keep track of lies and those most easily exposed are complete fabrications. When telling lies arbitrarily associate them with something that actually happened. Examples:

The circumstance: I was hungover and missed an important meeting because I was partying with my friend for his birthday.
The lie: I tell my boss that my best friend had a serious asthma attack last night and needed to be brought to the hospital. I ended up sleeping in because I only got an hour of sleep.
The circumstance: I need a loan from my parents to pay my rent because I got fired from the job that my dad helped me get.
The lie: I got fired because the manager kept hitting on me and I wouldn't go out with him.

There are a couple of benefits to this...

  • Less fictitious details you need to keep track of.
  • If they check into the details of your story it's more likely they will find it's consistent with reality.
  • The closer your lies are to reality the less your biology will treat them like a lie. Meaning that they are more difficult for others to detect.

Arbitrary truthfulness and general perceived character

cardinal richelieu

Your success in lying is more about the general perception of you as a credible and honest character than the plausibility and supporting details of an individual lie. This means that if you seem credible most of the time you can get away with some real deceptive behavior. The good news is that seeming credible doesn't take a lot of extra work.

  • Practice arbitrary truthfulness; admit and own up to things you are bad at, embarrassments, or failures.
  • Argue against your own self-interests; if something obviously benefits you financially or otherwise but has a downside for someone else, display your selflessness by pointing out why this might not work for everyone.

Call out an inconsequential lie to perpetrate a larger deception

White Lies
People know that people, in general, tell harmless white lies during conversation without even thinking about it. Next time you do this, call it out and make a little joke about it:

You know what? That's a lie. I'm doing this thing where I'm trying to lie less [smile]. The truth is...

Your admission of guilt must be about a relatively insignificant error, mistake, or lack of judgment. You are demonstrating that you are principle-driven to the point that you admit your lies even when there's no apparent benefit to doing so. This imbues you as a person of character, meaning you will be able to get away with a more significant lie later.

Don't stray from your "baseline"

On the show Lie to Me one of the first things you see them do when they are beginning a deception detection session is determine a behavioral baseline for an individual. The baseline includes things like...

  • The tonality of their voice.
  • Their heart rate and breathing.
  • Other stress indicators.
  • Their body language expressions (touching hair, face, self-rubbing, etc).
  • How often they blink.

The more they stray from their baseline, the more likely they are stressed and therefore lying. So while lying make it a point to try to avoid dropping obvious non-verbal cues of your stressed state. You don't want to end up embarrassing yourself like this lady...

Lie when it's most biologically appropriate

At the end of the movie Flight, after a night of binge drinking the alcoholic main character "runs out of lies" and finally admits to his behavior. This is not because he finally develops a moral compass, it's because of his biological state. Think of the time of the day when you are most creative, productive, and focused - that's also the best time of the day to tell lies.

  • Whenever possible, lie via a telephone call, text, or email as opposed to in person.
  • Before you need to tell a big lie in a high-pressure situation try "aping" in the bathroom. Go in a bathroom and lock the door, then for two minutes pretend to be an ape - lift your hands above your head, wave your arms around, claw at the air, and stomp around. Do it for two minutes; you will feel silly but at the end of the two minutes, you will be in a confident peak state for lying.

Call out the apparent deception


If you need to lie outright, own the frame by bringing up and calling out the obvious circumstances surrounding the deception.

The circumstance: You cheated on your boyfriend (or girlfriend) at the Class Reunion party the night before date night and now you have a conspicuous hickey. Your partner has been planning this special date night for a while and you can't cancel. Your partner knows you were going to see your ex-lover at the party, so if you wear a turtle neck they are going to know what happened!
The lie:

  1. Over text, you mention you were looking for your blender in the creepy storage area of your apartment complex and a spider bit you on the neck resulting in your conspicuous hickey.
  2. Mention that you were embarrassed at work because your coworkers said it looked like a hickey (third-party credibility).
  3. Joke that this makes you look "really classy" on the day of date night.
  4. Mention that you did talk to your ex-lover at the party but they were there with their current fiancé.

You don't tell your partner that nothing happened with your ex but you give them all the logical reasons necessary to believe your lie. If you have generally displayed good character up to this point in the relationship you are going to get away with this significant indiscretion!

Avoid these obvious "tells" that you are lying

  • Retreating or closing your body language after a lie (like Richard Nixon above).
  • Self-touching, rubbing your own hands or arms in a reassuring manner.
  • Momentarily covering your mouth or touching your face.
  • Touching yourself around the collar.
  • Touching your hair or scratching the back of your head.
  • Conspicuous swallowing or moving of the Adam's apple.

Brain training for better lying

Brain imaging studies using MRI machines have demonstrated that there is a strong correlation between Executive Functioning and lying. Executive Function could be compared to the RAM of a computer, it's the measure of the focus your mind can devote to the task at hand. Cognitive Psychologists have identified the Dual N-Back task as one of the most consistent ways to increase measurable Executive Function with transfer effects to real-life activities like staying focused, self-control, and even lying!

The leading Dual N-Back app on the market, Dual N-Back Pro for Windows, Mac, and Android, guarantees measurable cognitive gains in 20-25, 20-minute training sessions, or your money back.

Social media: Revealer of lies


In a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, two-thirds of attorneys reported that Facebook was a primary source of evidence for divorce proceedings. Indeed many clever deceptions have been exposed by a tagged photo, profile detail, or cavalier status update.

  • Set your relationship status to private.
  • Set your profile to private, so stalkers and friends of exes or current lovers can't see what you are up to. Only your profile and cover photo are visible.
  • When posting status updates carefully mind the public, friends, and custom visibility settings.
  • It's a good idea to delineate by groups of people who you may not want to see certain things; like Family, Party Friends, Good Friends, Dating Prospects, Work Colleagues, Sales Leads, etc.

Your smartphone

  • Use a VPN and security services.
  • Keep your apps up to date.
  • Lock the screen. If friends, family, or coworkers ask why it's because you have sensitive information on your phone.

Ill Make You an Offer You Cant RefuseMichael Franzese makes a compelling case against Machiavellianism in I'll Make You an Offer You Can't Refuse: Insider Business Tips from a Former Mob Boss

The Machiavellian philosophy is the cornerstone on which La Cosa Nostra, as I knew and lived it, was built. The Prince is to the mob as the Bible is to Christians. (p.31)
The Machiavellian philosophy for life is seriously flawed. It has elements that are true and pragmatic. That’s the bait in the trap. But it creates an atmosphere of deceit, mistrust, and treachery— a place where fear masquerades as loyalty. Eventually, any group of people that adheres to such a philosophy will destroy itself from within. When their enemies discover that the strength of the organization is based on the fear of its members, all they need to do is become the ones who are more feared. The loyalty will vanish into thin air, and the poison-tipped spike in Machiavelli’s trap of power and control will be revealed. (p.37)
“Men are so simple and yield so readily to the desires of the moment that he who will trick will always find another who will suffer to be tricked.” And finally: “It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.”
the end justifies the means.” This quote most accurately sums up Machiavelli’s entire philosophy. (p.95)

The book is worth a read by the arriviste tempted by Machiavellian tactics.


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