Sean Locke

What You Need to Know About 'Paltering,' A New Kind Of Lying

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Have you ever used the truth in order to help tell a lie?

Well, that's a pretty common thing, you sneaky bastard, you. And it has a name. It's called "paltering."

Paltering is when you use bits of the truth in order to deceive someone. It helps you maintain an honest, trustworthy image of yourself while still being a pretty little liar.

In a new study, researchers from Harvard University concluded that paltering is the third form of lying.

The other, more commonly recognized forms are lying by omission (aka not giving all of the facts) and lying by commission (aka saying things that just aren't true).

Lying certainly occurs more frequently than we think, whether you throw out a compliment on someone's outfit when their dress is actually heinous (lying by commission), or comforting someone after failing their road test even though you'll never tell them that you can't trust them behind the wheel (lying by omission).

But it's when you mix true information with lies that things get a little dicey.

Lead author Todd Rogers, PhD, says paltering is not only a really popular form of communication, but it can also take on many forms.

"Politicians often palter when the truthful answer to a question would be harmful," Rogers says. "When candidates get questions they don't want to hear, they often focus on continuing to make truthful statements, but try to mislead listeners."

Hmmm, sounds familiar.

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Politicians are professionals when it comes to paltering. The study, published in ScienceDaily, uses President Bill Clinton as an example of paltering.

It says,

One famous example Rogers cited was when President Bill Clinton said 'there is not a sexual relationship' between him and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The Starr commission later discovered that there had been a sexual relationship, but it had ended months before Clinton made that statement — thus, it was technically true, but clearly misleading.

See? Lies. Sneaky, little, half-true lies.

Telling a white lie to spare someone pain can differ from paltering, which enforces trickery and is more common in the sense of negotiating and bartering, according to the study.

Paltering also happens outside of the political spectrum. It's commonly seen in the workplace, relationships and other everyday scenarios.

Even though it enforces the act of being deceitful, people who do it consider it to be less harmful because they're still saying some things that are true.

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What if you're committed to someone you love, and one night, you find yourself in someone else's bed?

They have no idea, until one day, a few months later, they discover an old bar tab and get suspicious. After questioning you, you deny it and say you're not cheating on them.

Sure, in that very moment, that's true. You're not cheating on them right now. But that doesn't mean you've never cheated on them before, and that's what they're really asking here.

Instead, you've decided to use something that's only half true and omit the full truth. Maybe you do it to spare the person's feelings, but you're mostly doing it to cover your own ass.

Technically speaking, you're not doling out fake information when you do this. Because of that, avid palterers consider themselves to be great people who are just as honest as the next person.

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Paltering may seem like the easiest way out, but it can most definitely come back to burn you in the long run.

Lying is an absolute deal breaker for me, in any shape or form. Whether dealing with friends, a fuck buddy or a boyfriend, I need something open and real. If you're not laying all of your cards on the table, this relationship isn't heathy.

Don't palter to me; I don't need things sugarcoated.

Just tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

Citations: True lies: People who lie via telling truth viewed harshly, study finds (Science Daily), There's a Word for Using Truthful Facts to Deceive: Paltering (Harvard Business Review)