Sunday, May 20, 2007

Why lying to you makes narcissists feel smart

People make light of things in order to minimize how bad they are. I think I know why narcissists and other pathological liars think lying is funny and means that they are smart and you are stupid.

On my first trip to Europe, first trip to Rome, we hadn't been in Italy five minutes before the first time we got ripped off. When thousands of lira are less than a dollar, a fresh American can easily not notice a couple extra zeroes.

I got so sick of being viewed as prey, that I was in no mood to buy anything from any Italian that day we were resting in St. Peter's Square and a guy approached us with some 35 mm slides of the Vatican to sell us.

And I should have been interested in those photos, because our camera was on the blink.

I didn't mean to be a jerk: I just felt it would be rude to tell him to get lost, so I let him make his pitch. (Now I know that hawkers and telemarketers hate it when you waste their time like that and that they would rather you hang up or tell them to buzz off.) I just kept shaking my head and saying no I didn't want them. My sister saw me as the perfect bargaining tool, so she let this go on. (She may have even encouraged him for all I know.)

Maybe he and his fellow crooks had been surveying the herd for easy-looking prey (= stupid young American babes in polyester) and he had bet them that he would take us for a lot. Or maybe it was just that, having targeted us and having given us his whole spiel, he was too personally invested in the effort. Whatever, his ego wouldn't let him take no for an answer.

He pestered me to the point that I got up and started walking away. He followed! He just HAD to make the sale. My sister later told me that she kept listening for his price to get low enough as he was rushing after me, bidding lower and lower and lower with me adamantly not interested in buying what he was selling.

"We'll take it!" she suddenly blurted.

You should have seen the look on that poor man's face. He had apparently gotten so carried away he went below cost. He told us he shouldn't be selling the package to us for that price. "That's the price you quoted," I snapped.

As if he needed justification - this I can hardly believe - he said, well, he wouldn't feel so bad if at least these photos of the Vatican were going to a Catholic. So, he asked me if I was one, and I was (then), so I told him so.

He acted like he didn't believe me.

You can imagine how that struck me. Why did he ask such a stupid question that gave a non-Catholic reason to lie and put a Catholic in the position of sounding like a liar if she tells the truth?

Here was this crook, setting me up with that question and then acting like he didn't believe me.

Something - some switch inside me just clicked. I told the biggest whopper I could think of fast enough. "I sure am a Catholic I think," I said snorting. "Uh my brother's a priest and my uncle's a bishop."

That was before I learned how dishonest other people are - back when I NEVER lied, no matter what. So my sister's jaw dropped as she gaped at me, totally stunned to hear me say that.

Guess what? Now he believed me!

Lying to him was a blast. I thought it was hilarious. I thought he was stupid for believing my lie = I thought I was much smarter than him.

Which is what pathological liars think when they lie to you. But they conveniently unknow that they are no stranger that you shouldn't trust. That hawker had no reason to believe me because I was a stranger. But if I had been his friend, I would have been betraying a trust in lying to him. So, when people we have close or intimate relationship with lie to us, that is a far different matter.

We have every good reason to trust them, and they are betraying that (sacred) trust. We have every good reason to assume that they truly have the friendly relationship with us that they pretend to have. Unless we have reason to doubt them, it would be wrong for us to doubt everything our wife, husband, child, friend, or co-worker says. When we are fooled by a narcissist's lies, that's because we're innocent and honest, not because we're stupid. And it's because the lying narcissist is a creep.

Kathleen Krajco