• Other Friendship Advice

When a friend starts fibbing

September 8, 2013 | By | 4 Replies Continue Reading
A young reader laments a classmate’s new tendency to stretch the truth.

QUESTION

Hi,

I have a friend, I’ll call her Jillian. Jillian was THE PERFECT FRIEND in fourth grade. And then in fifth grade, she started lying a little bit and me and my other friends noticed. Now, in sixth grade, she lies to us a lot, and my friends don’t want to lose her.

When she lies, she keeps on lying, and then when you put everything together, the entire situation doesn’t make sense. What can I do to keep her as my friend without her lying to us all the time? Jillian’s also become an attention addict. She’s always lying about things to make her look and sound popular, and she barely cares about us anymore. She’s changed a lot, and is becoming something none of us want her to become. She’s changing into a bad person, and I would appreciate it if you could help.

Much appreciated.

Chloe

ANSWER

Dear Chloe,

I’m sorry to hear about your problem with Jillian. When a great friendship changes, it can be very sad and frustrating.

Accusing Jillian of being a lying attention-hog will surely make her angry. I think you sense this, which is why it appears you haven’t talked to her about her behavior. Perhaps it will help to think about why she is doing this: It seems she doesn’t think her own (true!) stories will convince people she’s interesting and worthy.

Jillian wants to be liked, but her lying is causing her friends to dislike her. Maybe you could talk to her about all of the reasons you like her and think she’s an interesting, smart, fun girl. Then you could tell her that you’ve noticed that she has made up stories before, and that you don’t think she needs to pretend she is someone she is not.

I don’t think she’s becoming a bad person–though you’re of course right to recognize the importance of honesty. It’s more likely that she is feeling insecure and confused and is now in the habit of lying. If you can give her some reassurance, that might be just the thing to get her to stop this behavior.

Loyalty to a friend is a good trait, but if someone really isn’t treating you well over time, it might be a good idea for you to spend less time with her and more time with your other friends. If Jillian still isn’t treating you well and is still lying after you talk to her, you might have to decide to turn your attention away from her. I hope this doesn’t happen and that instead, she comes to realize that the REAL Jillian is who you like and who you want to hear about.

No matter what happens, I can tell you’re a caring person who will be a very good friend throughout your school years and beyond.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes, Carlin Flora

Author of Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are


*Carlin Flora is a friend and colleague of the Friendship Doctor.

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Category: Child and adolescent friendships, Helping children deal with friendship problems, OTHER ADVICE

Comments (4)

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  1. Sheryl says:

    Good advice from Carlin. Hopefully this will not carry over to adult behavior, when lying can get more complicated and its consequences, more serious!

  2. Amy says:

    Hi Caitlin,
    I made a list of the reason people lie, but I bet you could come up with more reasons.

    -to avoid getting in trouble
    -to impress others
    -embarrassment or fear of embarrassment
    -to gain acceptance
    -to get material things
    -to hide secrets
    -to get attention
    -insecurity
    -to avoid hurting someone’s feelings
    -as a cry for help if they are having problems

    Carlin has some very good advice.
    I work with kids and sometimes they change and begin seeking attention, or lying, or they seem angry when they used to be friendly, if they are having problems at home–like if their parents are fighting, or maybe they have a new step parent or sibling. That’s not an excuse for behaving badly, but it could help to explain the changes. Sometimes kids change if they are having problems with their classes or a teacher. Sometimes kids get depressed or they’re being bullied.
    If Jillian is having problems, you might suggest she talk to her favorite teacher, or her mom, or the school counselor or another adult.
    You can tell her, “it’s hard for me to trust you, if I don’t know if you’re telling the truth and I want to trust you.”
    When you’re having a hard talk, a secret to getting the other person to listen is to start as many sentences with “I”. “I feel frustrated when I don’t think you’re telling the trust.” instead of saying, “you’re the biggest liar” or “you make me feel frustrated.” With the first sentence, you’re talking about how you feel, rather than calling her a name or sounding like you’re accusing her. Same with starting, “you make me feel…” because that sounds like an accusation.
    You’re a good friend to ask for advice, and to remember how much you liked Jillian. She’s lucky to have you.

  3. bronwyn says:

    Such a change in behavior is usually a major red flag. Although it’s a lot to put on a child to be concerned about another’s mental health, I wonder if there is some way to have the school guidance counselor become involved. Amy usually has some sound ideas on these matters. I’d be interested in her input.

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