Lying is one of the few autistic stereotypes that actually fits me quite accurately. I’ve always found it very difficult to lie, and I get really angry if other people do it. When I was younger, it was even a struggle for me to understand that other people were able to lie.
I think that part of my experience of lying is partly related to the way I interpret rules. When I was a kid, I was taught by the adults around me (like most kids are) that “lying is wrong”. Most people seemed to easily understand the implicit message about the situations where lying is acceptable (e.g. “if it would hurt someone’s feelings”, “if it’s an inappropriate topic”, “if you don’t want to talk about it with that person”). But I only learnt the rule as it was taught. Lying is wrong.
So I didn’t lie. And I assumed everyone else would never lie either. Realising that other people lied was like a betrayal –they were breaking the rule without even worrying about it. But knowing that other people lied wasn’t enough for me to do it myself. I couldn’t break the rule, even if other people were doing it. Whenever I had a fight with my ‘friends’ in primary school (which happened pretty often), the teachers would ask us what happened. I would tell the truth, and the other kids would lie, and I’d be the only one to get in trouble as a result. For some reason, even my honesty was less believable than someone else’s lie. (did someone say atypical communication?!)
Nowadays, I have taught myself to lie very occasionally. I can handle lying when it’s part of social scripts (things like answering “Fine, thanks” when someone asks how I am). I can tell small and fairly unimportant lies if it means I can get out of an uncomfortable situation or conversation (like saying I’ll be busy if I want to decline an invitation to something, or saying I have somewhere to get to when I want to leave). I can sometimes manage a lie when I want to avoid telling someone about something that is private or personal (like telling my friends I feel ill and need to go home, rather than admitting that I’m panicking).
I still find it extremely difficult. When someone asks a question, I don’t interpret it as “give me the information I want, or a lie that will make me feel better” – I interpret it as “give me the information I want, or an explanation for why you can’t”. I can sometimes get away without lying, by simply admitting I don’t want to say something – for example if my friends ask why I’m upset, I just answer “I don’t want to go into it”, or similar. That lets me stay within my interpretation of the question, by giving an explanation for not answering.
My rules of communication also make it really hard for me to deal with being lied to. If I ask someone a question, I don’t want them to lie to me rather than answering. If they can’t or don’t want to answer, I want them to simply explain that. I’d much rather someone said “I don’t know you well enough to talk about this with you”, rather than outright say something completely false just to get out of the conversation.
If I find out that someone has lied to me, I feel like my trust has been completely broken. It’s very difficult for me to recognise a lie at the time. So if I know someone lied to me, I have to assume than anything they ever say could now be a lie. Which makes it pretty hard to trust anything they say after that. I’m trying to work on teaching myself that when other people lie, they do it for a reason – even if I don’t understand the reason. But it’s pretty difficult. I tend to deal with it by simply surrounding myself with people who have the same rules for lying as I do, so I don’t have to feel like I’m constantly on guard around them. It works well enough for me.