Person A: Hey, what did you want to do for date night tonight?
Person B: Go out to eat, maybe. Yeah, that sounds good.
(A little while later when Person A comes home from work, tired and unenthusiastic)…
Person B: Ready for our dinner? I picked out a restaurant.
Person A: Actually, I lied. I don’t think I’m up for dinner tonight. Is it OK if we just spend some chill time together instead?
Okay, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this conversation at first glance, right? I mean, it’s just a couple trying to figure out what to do for date night and then one of them changes their mind.
Well, yeah, except for when Person A told Person B that they “lied.” But they didn’t lie. They changed their mind.
That’s the problem with a lot of communication nowadays. When people change their minds, they often preface it by saying, “Actually, I lied!” It may be meant to be some sort of comedic device, or a way to soften the blow when people cancel long-awaited plans, but that doesn’t make it OK. It’s not the truth. It’s wrong to say you lied if you only just changed your mind, and here’s why.
First of all, it’s not even really lying.
Like I mentioned, lying is when you purposely decide to tell someone false information. But in the moment, at work, Person A wanted to go to dinner. They couldn’t possibly have known that a mere few hours later, they’d want to rest instead. They didn’t tell Person B that they wanted a dinner date just to fool them. They just wanted something at one point, and then changed their mind later.
It makes changing your mind seem abnormal and shameful.
By saying “I lied,” you’re saying that you intentionally said the wrong thing before or agreed to something that you consciously knew you weren’t going to want to do later on. It implies that you did something wrong by taking back your plans or deciding to go a different route. But here’s the thing: changing your mind is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a wonderful thing. It shouldn’t be frowned upon. As a society, we need to normalize when people change their minds, because that’s how self-autonomy works. Especially in an era when we are so focused on the concept of consent and the idea behind it — that people should enthusiastically participate in activities — changing your mind is perfectly normal and important. Consent and enthusiasm is not always permanent — sometimes it’s momentary and people feel differently later. We need to let people be comfortable with changing their minds, and help them realize that it’s totally OK.
It turns the fault on the person for simply having a change of heart, even though they should not be blamed.
By saying “I lied,” you’re inadvertently placing the blame on yourself. You’re saying, “OK, my fault, but actually I lied to you about _________.” Lying isn’t a good thing. People don’t usually like to be lied to, so whether it’s conscious or not, there’s a connotation with the word “lie” that makes people want to assign blame. There’s one problem with this, though: people should not be blamed for changing their minds. Period. We need to understand that things happen, and people get burnt out or tired or sad or angry or experience a shift in their mood or their desires, and that’s OK. Part of building relationships — whether they are familial, friendship, romantic, sexual, or otherwise — is knowing that people inevitably change their minds sometimes, and understanding that they have every right to do that.
So please, next time, when you change your mind: be honest. Don’t tell your partner/friend, “Oh, sorry, I lied, I actually want ______________.” Tell your partner/friend, “Hey, I changed my mind about this, and I’d like _____________ instead.” We need to start normalizing the idea of people changing their minds. They have a right to do so, and understanding that is an essential part of healthy communication. It’s also a part of instilling a strong consensual foundation in your relationships. Sure, maybe Person A just changed their mind about dinner this time, but what if next time it’s about sex? Then next time, if Person B decides to blame them or coerce them into doing something because they can’t respect Person A’s decision, it’s not going to be a petty fight over date night — it could spiral into a sexual assault problem and a dismissal of consent. Sure, a dinner date is far from sex. But in any kind of relationship, respect, consent, and support takes time. It starts with the little habits and builds into the bigger issues.
So, yeah, on the surface, it seems OK. But are you really practicing self-respect if you create shame just for exercising your right to modify your opinions or decisions? I don’t know about you, but something about it doesn’t sit right with me. We need to be kind to ourselves and to each other.
So don’t “lie.”
But always, always, always know that it’s OK to change your mind.