“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. Did you know that this little sentence covers the most important lies we use daily? Let’s delve into it!

“I swear to tell the truth” – Lies of commission

If someone tells you something that is not a fact then we call this a lie of commission. This type of lie is telling someone something that is simply not true. You’re twisting the truth to create a (usually more favorable) version of something that happened.

Suppose I knew it was raining outside and you asked me about the weather. “Oh no problem, it’s perfectly sunny outside!” You would now be making a decision to dress for sunny weather based on the wrong information you were given.

How to tackle these lies:

For these lies to succeed, you have to be willing to believe the lie. It is something that has to sound plausible. The first step to tackling these lies is the determination not to be lied to. This will make you much more skeptical about what people tell you and lead you to double-check information.

Another way to expose these lies is by asking someone about the assumed lie later on. If he or she suddenly tells you a different story, then this probably means that there is something else going on- requiring a deeper investigation of what the truth really is.

“The whole truth” – Lies of omission

Another type of lie is one where you leave out an important part of information, hence the name lie of omission. In this lies, someone omits an important detail from a statement. These are nasty lies because they’re harder to spot and take less effort from the person who is lying.

Suppose you are buying a used car. You ask the car salesman about the state of the car you’re currently considering. “Oh, don’t worry about that! This car has had all of its scheduled maintenance done!” He fails to tell you, however, that the car has cost hundreds of dollars to replace important parts. So yes, the car has had all of the scheduled maintenance done, but to sell the car to you, the salesman leaves out the information about the cost of maintenance for this particular car.

How to tackle these lies:

In order to uncover these types of lies you’ll have to do a bit of digging. Find more information and double-check what you’re being told. The saying “Truth but verify” is certainly applicable here.

In the above example you could ask the salesman to show you the maintenance log of the car. Then, you would immediately see that the car has had a lot of replaced parts, which could tell you something about the car.

“And nothing but the truth”

Sometimes people will tell you something completely unrelated to the truth to cover up a lie. This is what we call a character lie or a lie of influence. These lies are meant to make you believe the liar or to make the liar seem like such a great person that they are unlikely to be suspected of lying.

Let’s look at an example. You work at the local Walmart and a colleague has been taking money from the cash registers. It’s your job to find out who it is. You interview Mary and ask her if she took the money. Her response is, “I’ve worked here for 15 years!” This is a typical character lie. By telling you how long she’s worked at Walmart, Mary is trying to make it seem highly unlikely that she took the money.

Note how she only told you how long she’s worked at Walmart! She has not told you that she didn’t take the money. Be very wary for these types of lies. Whenever someone is trying to convince you of how great they are like in the example above, they are probably attempting to cover something up.

How to tackle these types of lies:

Catching these lies is actually pretty easy. All you have to do is really listen to what someone is telling you. Are they giving you an answer to your question or are they just making a statement about themselves? If it’s the latter, then you need to ask the question again to get to the truth.


Now that you know how to distinguish the different types of lies, let’s see if you can manage to tell which type of lie is used in the following sentences.

A – I would never do something like that!

B – Q: Do I look fat in this dress? A: No, honey.

C – Q: Where were you yesterday? A: I went to the office (neglecting to tell you he also visited his mistress)

D – Q: Is this a good neighborhood to live in? A: Yes, we’re good friends with the people next door (not telling you the people across the street are really very nasty people).

E – Q: Are you having an affair? A: I’ve been happily married for 20 years!

F – Q: How much money are you making? A: About $3,000 a month (While actually making $2,200)


B and F: Lies of commission. Of course B is kind of a trick question because you would never tell your partner she looked fat in that dress, right? Either way, both are straightforward lies that tell you something other than the truth.

A and E: Lies of influence. These people are trying to make themselves look better to avoid suspicion. Saying “I would never do something like that” isn’t the same as “no”, which is the answer a truthful person would give you.

C and D: Lies of omission. Here, an important part of the truth is left out to avoid having to tell a lie of commission. That of course doesn’t make it right!

This guest post is by one of our body language experts in training: Michiel Andreae from The Netherlands. He loves to teach people how to improve their communication skills through body language and to coach people to make better use of their nonverbal skills. Find him on Twitter.

Learn the 5 scientifically proven steps to being a lie detector in our online training. Never miss a lie again. You’ll be able to spot deception and uncover hidden emotions, and unlock the secret language of lies.

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.

7 replies on “Different Types of Lies”

  1. Jessica Belmonte

    Being lied to always sucks, but omission lies are the worst. In a real world situation you can do some digging, but it’s always hard to confront someone with the truth when you have to let the person know you did said digging in order to get them to fess up. In a way I feel like it breaks my trustworthiness to that person, which however I feel about being lied to, I still value. I tend to ask direct questions to give them a chance to come clean, but a lot of times if they think they’re covering their tracks well enough they have no problem turning it into a lie of commission. I feel like sometimes this backs me into a corner since I become dishonest in turn. If I didn’t already know the answer to the question then why would I be asking? The liar can tend to feel trapped, since some tend to get very defensive once they realize you know more than you let on. I guess the real answer to this problem is that you can’t combat sneakiness and dishonesty with sneakiness and dishonesty.

  2. samgraphics

    Hi guys I’m reading this and I’m wondering. Isn’t a “lie of commission” the same as “exaggeration”?

  3. Roger D.

    Two questions. a)is it a lie of omission when you lose your company keys and don’t telll you boss because you think they will show up quickly? b) I began internet dating when it first began, in the nineties. The first thing I noticed was that what many people considered bold face lying about who they were, was simply the person lying to themselves about who they were, and describing the person they wanted to be. I would write, read and re-write emails to people to prevent myself from doing it, because it seemed so hard not to, when trying to describe yourself. In the end my greatest compliment was “You are exactly the way I imagined”. So what kind of lie was that?

    1. Danielle McRae

      Hey Roger! For a) yes, that is a lie of omission.

      For b) it depends. If the person truly doesn’t think they’re lying about themselves, then it’s simply not a lie. But I think for most cases, it falls under the “lies of influence” category where people try to make themselves look better to avoid suspicion.

      -Danielle & The Science of People Team

  4. Seth

    Most interesting. I agree the character lie is absolutely deceptive and misleading in an intentional way. I don’t know that I consider it a lie per se. It is absolutely a red flag. It is like listening to a public relations professional handly questions at a press conference. Is it right? Is it wrong? That is something for everyone to decide for themselves, and ethics is outside the scope of this topic. My rule of thumb: People who need to TELL me they are a good person, are not. People who share with me rank or position and status as a REASON why THEY are trustworthy (and mostly anyone who feels motivated enough to give well thought out or rehearsed reasons to trust them) should not be trusted. There are people who have that need, I don’t see many though….idk, what do you think about that?

    1. Danielle McRae

      Hi Seth, thanks for the insightful comment. You’re absolutely right- a character lie isn’t necessarily a lie (since what they’re saying out of context may certainly be true), but it’s definitely a red flag. I agree with your observation of those that find it necessary to brag about themselves. If you’re a good person, I should be able to see that. If you’re a competent person, I should be able to recognize that. Unfortunately, some people are insecure. Often, the only way they feel validated is by verbalizing something unnecessary. -Danielle and the Science of People Team

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