People are very much alike, but how we express our thoughts distinguishes us from each other. We err when we fail to translate our thoughts into words intended to please others.

But words and thoughts alone do not separate people. Thoughts are linked with gestures - bad or good - that convey a person’s intentions. How often have you heard a person speaking words of kindness, even as his body language speaks otherwise?

“He thanked me and promised to do better next time, but I didn’t think he meant it,” is a typical observation that we all have come across. But how do we know when another person is not being truthful?

The answer is quite obvious, and you don’t need me to tell you that not everyone speaks his or her mind. One can see the tightening of the face or the batting of the eyelashes to know the true intentions of the speaker.

“You don’t have to be a psychologist to separate a lie from the truth,” a psychologist once told me. “We know it, when we hear it because the physical side doesn’t lie.”

A liar always repeats his tactics, yet he still manages to get away with being dishonest. Why is that the case?

“Because we are too polite to tell them to stop lying and grow up,” he said. In fact, we are guilty of lying ourselves when we pretend to believe a liar. In doing so, we encourage the person to victimise others.

I was surprised when one of the biggest compulsive liars I have known for many years said to me that everybody is expected to lie.

“If I don’t lie, then I am not true to myself - my friends expect that from me,” he said. The statement was just so paradoxical. I asked him: “How can you be true to yourself when you lie and how can you be sure that your friends expect you to lie?”

He flashed a wide grin and instinctively I knew that his explanation was also going to another big fat lie.

“Being truthful can cause resentment in people - it may break a friendship,” he said, adding that a well-orchestrated lie never caused offence, but actually lightened up a tense situation.

I, however, plainly told him that I disagree with him.

“Lies can become essential in a delicate situation. Most people lie from time to time to encourage others or avoid a confrontation,” he defended himself.

I thought about it and I realised one might actually opt for a little, white lie occasionally! Only last week, I was guilty of promising my 11-year old daughter of buying her an expensive phone, when I actually had no intention of doing so because I could not afford it.

The self-professed liar was delighted when I revealed this to him. “Your daughter nagged you and you had to keep her quiet and you lied - pretty much the same with me. I lie because I have to please people. That way, I get peace of mind.”

But mine was a harmless lie - the kind that most parents tell their children. But his were serious lies that were harmful and could cause a major misunderstanding. For a few minutes, we sat in a small office defending our dishonesty.

“Look, we are both guilty of the same thing and that proves you are a liar, too,” he said joyously. “But we were honest enough to admit it and that means we are also truthful.”

I thought I had trapped myself and defeated my own argument. However, he did promise to cut down on the lying. Not that I believed him. Later on, I saw the funny side of our conversation. We had an ‘honest’ discussion of how we would both ‘lie’ to temporarily diffuse a volatile situation.

The writer is an Oman-based freelance columnist. This article has been reproduced from the Khaleej Times.