The 4 Basic Tricks of the Most Deceptive Pathological Liars

Dr. Ava Pommerenk
6 min readDec 22, 2018
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For most of us, we occasionally tell lies. Whether it be based on basic insecurities or fear in the moment, or a desire to protect someone, we all can find at least one context where we would tell a lie. However, there is a small portion of the population that tells lies for the purpose of manipulation and deception, to gain power and reward. Often these types of people are labelled as pathological liars, because those that are caught, often lie about so many different things, day to day, and often even about things most people see no reason to lie about.

But, we all need to understand, when you live in a reality where you believe you have absolutely no responsibility to others, to be honest or have integrity, lying becomes a power game, and almost a form of personal entertainment. These people get a delight in knowing others believe them, and that this gives them the power to influence and control people, circumstances, and events, in their favor, based on whatever they deem as “true” in the moment.

Below is a list of the five common ways some of the most “successful” (e.g. the ones who rarely get caught) pathological liars, tend to lie.

  1. Telling the lie during a moment or context of urgency.

Often the most skilled liars will tell a lie, but encase the telling of this lie, in the context of a manufactured urgent situation. Or, they may wait to tell you a lie when there is actually a real urgent situation occurring. Whether manufactured or actually urgent, they choose these contexts to tell a lie as a way to make sure your attention is instead focused on the urgent situation, instead on catching the inconsistencies in their story. Or, if you do happen to catch the possibility that what they are saying sounds like a lie, you will instead choose to deal with the urgency, instead of pausing, slowing down, and addressing the confusion their lie is bringing up for you. They have also learned you likely want to give them the benefit of the doubt, or you will be too exhausted and distracted, and you will likely let it slip by, and not tend to revisit this possible lie, later on.

2. Telling a serious confession about something, as a means to hide or conceal other even worse or similar truths.

Watch out for the people claiming they are extremely honest, who regularly make it a point to be almost annoyingly confessional about minor or normal things they have done, as a means to “be honest” and “straightforward” towards you. In fact, if someone is telling you and overly detailed story to “confess” something they have done, there is most likely something they are concealing through getting you distracted by these many details.

This method is often also used by people who are drug addicted and possibly struggling to be sober. They will for instance, confess to relapsing, and drinking two drinks, but reassure you that they came home afterwards and went to bed. But, in actuality, they drank 7 drinks, and also cheated. This “honest confession” is a way to help you build trust with them, and suspect they have maintained their integrity, when in fact, this “truth” is told to conceal what actually happened, and to leave you unsuspecting that they are actually a person of low integrity. They can continue to then “randomly” relapse in excess, and also take part in other nefarious activities, while you congratulate them on being honest, and have compassion for their struggle to be sober, while being completely unsuspecting of the other ways they are lying.

3. Convincing you that you are the one lacking integrity, or have a bad character in some way (too needy or demanding), and must defend yourself and your behaviors, and provide facts and evidence to your truths, which deflects from them having to provide evidence or account for holes in their stories.

When you do confront a pathological liar, believing something they have said is untrue, in whatever way, they flat out deny it, will get offended, and then bring up ways they believe you lack integrity.

You end up so distracted by their character assault upon you, and defending your integrity or reasons for having perhaps lied in the past, that they never have to fully address their lie. Instead, you are left with feeling guilty that you could have even questioned them, and that you led them to question you in the first place.

Additionally, if you have caught them in several lies, and been repeatedly disappointed by their broken promises, and you let them know you can no longer trust them, they assault your character, and ensure the argument escalates. They claim you are too much of a hard-ass, too needy, too demanding, or that they could never make you happy. Then you spend time reassuring them, defending and fighting for who you are and your needs and boundaries, instead of them having to come clean about their lie. They also sufficiently redirect the conversation so they are off the hook from ever having to apologize, come clean, and make further agreements with you to change their behaviors and repair the damage they have done. One or both parties end up leaving the situation, after it having been extremely escalated, and they get the benefit of returning to talk with you with a pre-scripted way to redirect the “resolution” conversation.

4. Claiming ignorance when caught in a lie, and asking that you give them the benefit of the doubt, because of the foundation of “integrity” they have built with you already.

This way of lying could manifest in many ways.

The most common way this lie is orchestrated, is they triangulate you with another person, and create a situation where it is their word against another person’s. If the other person helps you see that the liar has been dishonest, the liar will first claim ignorance or a misunderstanding. They will then assert an alternative “truth” to what the third person reports, and then they will depend on the solid foundation of integrity they have built with you in the context of your relationship, as a way to get you to believe their word and claim they can’t possibly be lying somehow. They may even go as far as telling defaming and often untrue stories about the third person, as a way to get you to devalue and dismiss that person’s character and integrity, so you end up believing the lies.

Sadly, because you likely don’t want to believe they have no integrity, it is easier to let yourself be turned against those who they have triangulated you with, for the sake of preserving connection and relationship with this liar.

These four methods of pathological liars, are often used most by Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Psychopaths, in abusive dynamics they have created with close friends, family members, or romantic partners. Also, whether or not you label the liar in this way, their deeply ingrained pattern of lying, ALWAYS creates an abusive dynamic. So, if you are experience domestic violence, and you have noticed you and your partner go through the cycles of violence together, the likelihood that these methods are being used on you, is extremely high.

I encourage you to begin to confront the person you suspect is a pathological liar, if you are certain it will not lead to physical violence, and see how they respond. If they respond as predicted within this article, this could be just the confirmation you need to overcome the gas lighting they have been putting you through, enough to begin to find an exit route from this relationship.

I wish you the best in creating a life where you never have to deal with being close to a pathological liar, ever again.



Dr. Ava Pommerenk

Coach. Psychologist. Writing about new perspectives, love, relationships, Narcissism, healing, transformation, & culture.