How Lying By Omission Harms Us and Our Relationships

Authenticity and trust are essential components of healthy relationships — so why do we sometimes omit the truth? And how can we stop the charade?

Sally Clarke
3 min readMay 7, 2021


Image by Brett Jordan at Unsplash

Lying by omission is a special kind of betrayal.

It’s passive-aggressive, it’s cowardly, and does just as much damage as full-blown outright lie.

Lying by omission defined

Lying by omission is this:

“Leaving out one or more important facts in order to foster a misconception.

This includes the failure to correct pre-existing misconceptions”

This lack of transparency undermines communication, and directly impacts our experience of trust and respect in relationships, whether with friends, family or colleagues.

Lying by omission sucks. So, why does it happen?

What motivates lying by omission?

Some might argue that it is done to avoid causing hurt or pain to the other party. “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings”, that kind of BS.

But what’s really happening, is cowardice on the part of the person who is lying. More specifically, they are feeling

afraid of the response,

guilty about their action, or

ashamed of themselves.

When we lie by omission, we are (often subconsciously) making assumptions about how the other person will react. We are nervous about being on the receiving end of those reactions and want to avoid having to take responsibility or being held accountable. At other times, we might be afraid of how others will perceive us if we tell the full truth, and what the consequences of that might be.

We find ways to rationalize the decision to withhold that information from our friend, colleague or partner.

“Mike will freak out if he finds out we had Covid. We’d better not tell him.”

“Jennifer will go through the roof if she knows I bought a new laptop. I’ll just hide it and pretend it’s my old one.”



Sally Clarke

Co Director of Human Leaders. Wellbeing & burnout author, expert, coach, writer & speaker. Global adventurer. she/her