During my formative years, I lied to my parents as many children do in order to avoid punishment. Around the age of 12, however, I developed a rock hard aversion to any sort of lying and stopped doing so. I'm not sure what motivated this change in character. Perhaps my trust was betrayed by a friend or fellow student in such a way that the long-term consequences to a relationship when someone lies were made clear to me. Maybe I just was born with the type of character that would eventually jell into the one I have now. It's also possible that I finally reached an age where I realized that my mother lied whenever it suited her position in discussions or power plays.
In regards to my mother, my father used to say that she lied so much that she eventually believed her lies were true. I recall on more than one occasion when she'd make up some "fact" to back up her assertion that my sister or I should do something or other that she wanted. When we challenged her "facts", she'd just make up more and more ridiculous lies to support what she'd said. When the lies upon lies resulted in the logic of her assertions folding like a house of cards buckling under a gust of wind, she'd get angry and start lashing out and attacking us verbally. I'm guessing that sort of experience might tend to cultivate a strong aversion to fibbing in a person.
During my youth, this wish to avoid lying at all costs translated into a character which was blunt, strident, and abrasive at times. It took until I was nearing 30 or so for me to start learning to seriously moderate these tendencies. While I still hate to lie and having other people lie to me, I began to realize that lies in the service of failing to hurt others, particularly lies that had no long-term impact, were not a betrayal of my principles. For instance, if a student asks me if his English has improved, I won't lie and say it has if it has not though I may say that one aspect has improved (if that is true) as a way of only partially answering the question. Sometimes though, I'll simply tell them that they haven't been putting in enough work to improve based on their current basic level.
"Lies" to students are a part of business though mine tend to take the path of avoiding the crux of the question rather than being out and out lies. I'm not so sure that Japanese people may not prefer this to a 100% accurate answer so that they can have a softened bit of truth. From a certain viewpoint, this may be seen as a self-serving lie since a student who is told blatantly that he isn't getting better despite taking expensive lessons may decide he should just give up and I'll lose a source of income. However, my impulse is not to keep my rosters full of paying customers. I don't want to hurt their feelings or discourage them.
When it comes to lying, two points are always key in determining whether or not the lie serves a positive or negative function. One is whether or not the lie miscommunicates information in such a way as to perpetuate a destructive situation which may eventually eat away at a relationship or result in a future devastating and extremely painful revelation. The most common lie of this sort is related to women lying to their partners about the extent of their sexual satisfaction. If a woman lies about this point, she starts a cycle which confuses her partner about what is best to do to please her and often finds herself pressured to continue to "fake" once she starts doing so.
The other point is whether or not the lie is primarily self-serving rather than in the service of the other party. Yesterday, I was exposed to what I'm certain was this sort of lie. An office worker at my former company was communicating with me regarding scheduling of telephone tests I conduct as freelance work. Since I worked in person with her, I know her character and I've also had issues with her in the past. She can be rude and often doesn't listen to my former boss when he directs her and follows her own counsel rather than his. This always results in a problem because he has good reasons for doing things a certain way but she only has her own interests in mind.
For over a year now, I've been scheduling tests on a case by case basis to accommodate my private lesson schedule changes. This means any time my former company wants me to do tests, my schedule for the times and days in question has to be confirmed. This woman suggested that it was too troublesome to keep asking me about my schedule so it should be "locked down" to avoid the need for the questions. What it seemed to me that she meant was that I should promise I would reserve hours for the tests each week so they could freely slot them in any time without asking about my availability. This would essentially put me in the position of refusing private students indefinitely in such time slots and risking losing income with no guarantee that the infrequent tests would even be scheduled into those slots. In essence, she can skip the part which takes time and set up a situation where I'm the same as I was when I worked in the office.
I told her that the only way they could "reserve" my hours was by paying a retainer for them and she claimed that her suggestion was for my benefit so that I wouldn't have to put up with answering schedule-based questions. This was an incredibly transparent lie as I've never complained about such questions and, in fact, insist it be done this way for maximum flexibility. I should note that that flexibility goes both ways. The company gets far more possible hours for tests (which the companies who buy the tests prefer) by consulting me than locking in a limited schedule of a few hours each week or day.
Like many people who offer up a self-serving lie, she tried to mollify me by saying the situation she wanted was for to my benefit rather than hers. This sort of lie makes me angrier than most because it seems to assume I'm very naive and gullible. The thing about people who lie without a second thought is that they have an unrealistic notion of how effective their lies are. They often believe obvious lies are credible. Of course, in the case of the Japanese, I sometimes feel they know the lies are obvious but they rely on the cultural tendency not to be confrontational to keep them from being called on them.