Can Autistics Tell Lies? | Kathy Marshack

all people lie, but how Autistics lie is unique. It’s that uniqueness that gums up our relationships. I am not sure who started the rumor that those with ASD don’t lie, and even that they are incapable of lying. Clearly this is not true. Sadly, all people lie, but how Autistics lie is unique. It’s that uniqueness that gums up our relationships.

Without empathy, Autistics lie similarly to psychopaths, although Autistics don’t have the ruthless intent. They aren’t considering how we will feel when they lie to us. They aren’t even considering a “smooth” way to lie. They just lie to avoid confrontation, anxiety, being wrong, or any number of reasons the rest of us may lie.

When confronted with their lies autistics have a variety of defenses that mimic psychopaths too.

  • They tell us they “never said that.” 
  • They elaborate the lie. 
  • They change the subject. 
  • They ignore us. 
  • They even lie when the truth would work better. 

What’s with that?

It might just be that they need help with what I call the Rules of Engagement. They don’t always have the social awareness that lying will cause harm to the relationship. Once they get this, they try harder. This is a tough subject, so I have reserved it for a small group of people who sign up for the Video Conference, “Yes! Aspies do lie” held on September 11th and again on September 25th. Together we’ll get a handle on this.

If you would rather work in-person with me, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works better for you.

4 Replies to “Can Autistics Tell Lies? | Kathy Marshack”

  1. I have always had a hard time talking. I dont like to talk unless it is due to an injustice to me. I cant think fast enough to lie. It has been this way all of my life. I dont understand. I even get mad due to I know it may be to my dosmise to tell the truth and give info to potential wolf in sheeps clothing.

    1. Hi Mic,
      You make a good point that you can’t think fast enough to lie. It’s not so much the speed of thought, but the ability to understand how to nuance the lie so that the other person is fooled. Many on the Spectrum have no idea how to do this. I am not sure that is a flaw, however.

      Others on the Spectrum lie with abandon, but they do so in a domineering fashion, so that no one can get a word in edgewise.

      Your other point about telling the truth, only to your demise, is also very insightful. Both lying and truth telling require empathy, or the ability to nuance the message to fit the person and the situation.

      Rather than beat your head against a wall, trying to figure out how to nuance your message, it makes more sense to give yourself a break. You are enough and that’s all that matters. I encourage you to be open about it. For example, you might say, “Hey! I don’t always say the right thing at the right time, but you always know where I stand.”

      Thank you for reading and sharing your experience. I appreciate it.

  2. Hi Kathy,
    I have a student who does pretty much everything you have mentioned. What strategies would you suggest to help him understand the importance of telling the truth?

    1. Hi Katie,
      The best thing you can do is make a rule for the student. It’s not easy to help the student understand the importance of telling the truth, but you can insist that it is the rule to be truthful. Those without empathy are not assessing how the lie affects others. Instead they are managing their own anxiety by lying. In the long run, they may need therapy to help them develop strategies to reduce anxiety and still be honest. Hope this helps.

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