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Lying by Omission

Part I:  Description

Lying by Omission: The Deception of Silence

Lying by omission occurs when someone deliberately withholds important information, creating a misleading impression for another person. It differs from simply not volunteering details; there's an active intent to conceal the truth.

Key Points to Understand about Lying By Omission

  • Half-Truths: The information shared might be technically accurate, but misleading because it lacks the full context.

  • Passive Deception: Unlike lying by commission (actively stating falsehoods), this relies on staying quiet, allowing the other person to assume something false.

  • Still Harmful: While sometimes seen as less severe, lying by omission can erode trust and damage relationships if the omitted information is significant.

Examples of Lying by Omission

  • Job Applicant: Failing to disclose a gap in their work history, hoping the interviewer won't ask.

  • Relationship: Not revealing an event or feeling that, if known, would alter the other person's perception significantly.

  • Sales Negotiations: Withholding a significant flaw in a product, hoping the buyer doesn't discover it before the deal closes.

Why Address Lying by Omission?

  • Breeds Mistrust: Vital information concealed makes healthy relationships difficult, as the deceived person makes decisions based on incomplete information.

  • Ethical Considerations: Many see a moral duty to disclose certain information, even if not directly asked.

Part II:  Common Questions

1. Is lying by omission always the same as lying by commission?

  • Answer: While both are deceptive, the intent differs:

    • Omission: Withholding information to mislead.

    • Commission: Actively fabricating a false story.

    • Severity Varies: Depending on the situation, either form of lying can have significant consequences.

2. How can I tell if someone is lying by omission?

  • Answer: Look out for these signs:

    • Evasive Answers: Dodging direct questions or only giving partial information.

    • Changing the Subject: Abruptly shifting the conversation to avoid uncomfortable topics.

    • Gut Feeling: If something feels 'off,' trust your intuition and gently probe for the whole story.

3. Are there times when lying by omission is okay?

  • Answer: This is a complex ethical question:

    • Minor Matters: To spare someone's feelings on a trivial matter (disliking an outfit) might be seen as harmless.

    • Greater Harm: If withholding information could lead to significant harm, most agree disclosure is the right approach.

    • Context is Key: Weigh the potential consequences of the lie against the reason for withholding information.

4. What are some common situations where lying by omission occurs?

  • Answer: It can happen in various settings:

    • Relationships: Hiding something significant from a partner, eroding trust.

    • Workplace: Failing to disclose something relevant during a job interview or performance review.

    • Legal Matters: Withholding information that could derail a negotiation or court case.

5. What can I do if I discover someone lied to me by omission?

  • Answer: The best approach depends on the severity:

    • Address it Calmly: Express how the lack of disclosure makes you feel and impact it has on trust.

    • Minor Matters: You might let it go, but monitor for a pattern of similar behavior.

    • Significant Lies: Reassessing the relationship might be necessary if trust is irreparably damaged.

Part III:  Additional Resources

Books about Lying by Omission

Lying by Sam Harris: 

  • Offers a concise philosophical exploration of lying, including analysis of lying by omission and its potential consequences.

The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely: 

  • Explores the psychology of dishonesty, including the common use of lies of omission to preserve self-image.

Secrets and Lies: Deception and Disclosure in Intimate Relationships by Mark Knapp & Anita Vangelisti: 

  • Delves into deception within close relationships, with lying by omission being a common tactic.

Websites and Online Resources about Lying by Omission

  • Greater Good Science Center (Berkeley): Search for articles on dishonesty, deception, or trust – topics closely related to lying by omission. (

  • Psychology Today: Search for articles and blog posts specifically about lying by omission within different interpersonal contexts. (

  • MindTools: Offers articles on communication and building trust, which often touch on the damage caused by lying by omission. (

Additional Options about Lying by Omission

  • Ethical Philosophy Discussions: Search for texts or online forums dedicated to exploring ethical dilemmas, where lying by omission is frequently debated.

  • Ted Talks: Search for talks on topics such as honesty, transparency, or building trust, which may offer insights into the harm of withholding vital information. (

  • Legal Websites: Explore resources on law and ethics to find analyses of lying by omission in legal contexts, such as during negotiations or court proceedings.

  • Relationship Blogs or Forums: Discussions on relationship challenges may offer personal accounts of how lying by omission impacts couples or friendships.

Part IV:  Disclaimer

These results were highly selected, curated, and edited by The Nexus Inititiative. To make this amount of complimentary content available at a cost-effective level for our site visitors and clients, we have to rely on, and use, resources like Google Gemini and other similar services.

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