Author Topic: Can you politely call someone out when you think they're lying? Long, sorry  (Read 6371 times)

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Carpathia

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MIL is very flaky and often cancels planned visits to us/us to her at the last minute. She has had issues in the past which contributed to her not wanting to leave the house which we have made a lot of allowances for, knowing that it's hard for her. However, she's been getting much better and she does now go out to the shops and supermarket and visiting.  She has also started driving again.

DD13 is going on her first school trip abroad tomorrow - a big deal for her. MIL has a St Christopher which belonged to DH's late father and called us to find out when she could bring it over. We agreed on a day and rough time (3.30ish yesterday).
She hasn't seen the children often in the last year or so, and before their birthdays she called to say she'd drop cards through the door while we were all out at work/school when she and her husband were on her way to their preferred supermarket (five minutes away from our house, across town from theirs).

Yesterday just before 1pm she rings the house phone. I didn't get to it in time, but checked and it was her number. I decided that I'd finish the washing up before calling her back, but the phone rings again a couple of minutes later, and then I hear DH's mobile phone ringing so I rush and grab it before it wakes him (night worker).  She's calling to say she can't make it because her stepdaughter had come round later than planned, so she'd pop over the next day and put the necklace through the door. I said that DD would like to see her, and she hummed and hawed a bit and I said I'd ask DH to ring her when he woke up (she knew he was sleeping - no idea why she rang his phone).

DH is cross with her, and so am I - DD was very disappointed but not surprised and I hated the look of disappointment on her face which she couldn't hide even though she tried to make light of it (I'd told her Nanny couldn't make it but not why). DH didn't take her call later on (she *always* calls up several times when she cancels to explain again and again and make sure we're not annoyed).

She called several times earlier this evening and DH answered. She then told him her real reason for cancelling was that she'd fallen in the bath and hurt her back so couldn't come over (she wouldn't have been driving if that makes a difference, her husband was going to drive her).

I don't believe her. She knows because we didn't take her calls yesterday and today that we are annoyed, and I think she has come up with a 'better' excuse; one we can't argue with. She has done this before but forgotten which story she's told me and DH and got muddled. We didn't call her on it at the time though, but  this time I wanted to know if there is a polite way to say 'I don't believe you'. If she calls again, I don't think I can just say 'Oh no, we understand completely' which is what she's looking for.

Is calling someone out always rude?

Erich L-ster

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I don't think it's rude after the person has made a habit of story telling. I think it would be rude if you didn't give them the benefit of the doubt the first time or maybe the first 3 times.

Luci

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This is a good question that I have often wondered about.

Off course, it must be done with children to help them learn that lying is wrong, although not all learn that!

For an adult, at this point I would really want to say, "Wait a minute! Which is it. Did stepdaughter come around or did you fall? I'm confused."

Now I can find out how others answer this dilemma.

Shortylicious

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I would say that it depends on why you are calling them out. If you are trying to get her to acknowledge and stop the behavior, then give it a shot. If you are doing it to catch her in a lie and let her know that you know, then I'd say no. If you decide to go ahead, be factual with what you've observed, tell her how it's effected your family and then let her know what you expect going forward. Good luck!

SPuck

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I agree with Shortylicious. Don't play games it is just going to hurt everyone in the end. What I would like to know, would it be rude/pa if she informed her MIL that her granddaughter was disappointed in her, but she also expected it to happen? If it isn't I would be blunt with her.

Virg

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At this point I don't think it would be rude to tell her that she's backed out of so many promises that it doesn't matter any more why she does it, and that she should simply not make promises if she's not going to keep them.  I'm sure that she'll comment about her injury for this time and I'd just tell her again that she's backed out of so many promises that it doesn't matter any more why.  She'll get the message that you won't buy into the excuses any more without you having to accuse her without being absolutely certain that she really is lying.

Virg

Miss Tickle

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You said: "She has had issues in the past which contributed to her not wanting to leave the house which we have made a lot of allowances for, knowing that it's hard for her. However, she's been getting much better and she does now go out to the shops and supermarket and visiting.  She has also started driving again."

Maybe she's not that much better or is having a setback. That she's started to lie to cover suggests she's aware it's a problem. Did she do that before? Do "events" like birthdays and first trips abroad stress her out to the point she can't cope? She might not want to say "I'm having anxiety about GD leaving" so she makes up something less damaging to her ego.

If you want to bring it up with her, I would politely state the facts: You told me one thing, you told DH another, either way your granddaughter was disappointed, she misses you.  I'm sorry things worked out the way they did, but we'd much rather you say I'm not feeling up to a trip/visit than to tell us stories.

LEMon

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Have you tried telling her how her granddaughter looks when she can't make it?  I would be very willing to let her know I was upset she let my child down.  I would ignore the excuses.  Honestly neither was good enough to cancel for.

My one exception would be if she is starting to struggle with getting out.  But that begs the question why she can come grocery shopping over by you, but not come visit.

gramma dishes

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You know, there really IS another possibility this particular time at least.

Maybe she really DID fall in the tub and hurt herself, but she didn't want to admit that because she was:

a.)  embarrassed that it happened and just didn't want to admit that it happened, -or -
b.)  afraid that you (or more likely your husband since it's his mother) would wonder if she was becoming incompetent and   
      might be almost ready for assisted living, since she might not be "safe" in her own home

Probably not, but it might be considered.  I think if I fell but wasn't so badly injured that I had to be hospitalized, I wouldn't necessarily want to tell my kids just because I wouldn't want them to worry needlessly.  And maybe I'd be a little embarrassed that it happened.   :-\

Deetee

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You could call her out but I don't see the point. This is a longstanding and reoccurring issue and I doubt that there is anything that you can do or say that will make her suddenly unflakey and/or honest.

For your sanity, I suggest that you do not rely on her, don't have any expectations, never ever rearrange your schedule for her convenience  and when she doesn't show up, don't ask for an explanation and don't respond to her proferred explanation. "Oh, there was a dragon chewing on your car so you couldn't make it over. That's too bad. Well, it looks like the cat is on fire again-bye!"


sweetonsno

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Re: Can you politely call someone out when you think they're lying? Long, sorry
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2013, 04:19:05 AM »
As Shortylicious has said, I think you need to consider your motivations before you take any action. If you just want to call her out on being a liar because it annoys you, I would think twice. This woman is a family member, and a close one at that. Trying to catch her in a lie in order to embarrass or shame her isn't going to help with relationships (yours, your husband's, and your daughter's).

What is the specific behavior you'd like to change? If you suspect that she is making promises knowing that she can't (or won't) keep them, then consider offering her an out up front. For instance, you mention that she isn't always up for going out or driving. I'm not sure what the reasons are, but if it is related to a health problem of some sort, she may not always know whether or not she'll be up for a trip on any given day. I'm willing to bet she'd be a bit embarrassed to call and explain that she's having horrible panic attacks or that her bladder infection means she can't be away from a toilet for more than five minutes. The bottom line is that if she says that she wants to visit you, you could say, "We'd love to have you, but I know that you have been having some ups and downs with your health lately. Would it be easier if we came to you?" Then, don't tell your daughter about the plans so she doesn't get disappointed if (when) they fall through.

If it's more of a desire to get her to stop groveling or otherwise calling you over and over to offer your excuses, then accept them the first time, clearly. "Oh, MIL, I'm so sorry to hear that your trick knee is acting up again. We'll miss you and we hope you feel better soon. Give us a call and let us know when you're feeling better." Kind of what Deetee suggests. Don't make it emotional or dramatic, treat it as though she is telling the truth. Make it clear that you are disappointed that she can't make it, but don't get across that you are disappointed in her. She isn't going to try to justify herself if she feels that she is forgiven. Hopefully, she'll eventually a.) stop calling over and over to reiterate how sorry she is and b.) realize that the reason why she can't make it isn't important (and therefore stop lying).

magician5

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Re: Can you politely call someone out when you think they're lying? Long, sorry
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2013, 04:47:28 AM »
You could call her out but I don't see the point. This is a longstanding and reoccurring issue and I doubt that there is anything that you can do or say that will make her suddenly unflakey and/or honest.

For your sanity, I suggest that you do not rely on her, don't have any expectations, never ever rearrange your schedule for her convenience  and when she doesn't show up, don't ask for an explanation and don't respond to her proferred explanation. "Oh, there was a dragon chewing on your car so you couldn't make it over. That's too bad. Well, it looks like the cat is on fire again-bye!"
Exactly - stop trying to change her because it won't work. Just stop beating your head against a wall. You'll be amazed how good it feels when you stop.
There is no 'way to peace.' Peace is the way.

pierrotlunaire0

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Re: Can you politely call someone out when you think they're lying? Long, sorry
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2013, 10:11:18 AM »
I know that it is aggravating, but I also don't see what good could come of it.  If her flakiness is caused by mental/emotional issues, then your perceived annoyance will only make it worse: more flakiness, more groveling phone calls, more explanations and excuses.

My only suggestion is to not depend on her: if she can, then great, but if she can't, oh, well.  I don't have these kind of problems myself, but I do know that they can be crippling and debilitating, and even though she has been better lately, it can flare up badly without notice. 
I have enough lithium in my medicine cabinet to power three cars across a sizeable desert.  Which makes me officially...Three Cars Crazy

mstigerlily

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Re: Can you politely call someone out when you think they're lying? Long, sorry
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2013, 10:44:13 AM »
"Wait a minute! Which is it. Did stepdaughter come around or did you fall? I'm confused."

That's how I'd play it. Do it with a cute 'maybe I'm confused' tone in your voice (as opposed to an 'I just caught you in a lie tsk-tsk' voice).


I had something similar happen this Thanksgiving- a cousin said he and his family would come to the big family TD, then called and said his daughter was sick. I had to laugh when I got their Christmas letter talking about how well 'very sick' daughter performed her (instrument that would be very hard to play while very ill) for guests on TD...

Coley

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Re: Can you politely call someone out when you think they're lying? Long, sorry
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2013, 10:58:12 AM »
You said: "She has had issues in the past which contributed to her not wanting to leave the house which we have made a lot of allowances for, knowing that it's hard for her. However, she's been getting much better and she does now go out to the shops and supermarket and visiting.  She has also started driving again."

Maybe she's not that much better or is having a setback. That she's started to lie to cover suggests she's aware it's a problem. Did she do that before? Do "events" like birthdays and first trips abroad stress her out to the point she can't cope? She might not want to say "I'm having anxiety about GD leaving" so she makes up something less damaging to her ego.

If you want to bring it up with her, I would politely state the facts: You told me one thing, you told DH another, either way your granddaughter was disappointed, she misses you.  I'm sorry things worked out the way they did, but we'd much rather you say I'm not feeling up to a trip/visit than to tell us stories.

POD. I see the dishonesty as a symptom of the larger problem. Before calling her out on lying, I would consider whether her intentions in making plans are good and whether her progress in coping with her issues (not able to leave the house) is not as advanced as you might think. I like Miss Tickle's suggestions on how to approach it factually in terms of the effects of her behavior on your family.