Starting with some brutal  honesty seems like the only fitting way to begin this. Let's face it -- we've all lied at one point or another. From harmless little fibs to full-blown, major deceit, there likely isn't anyone out there who can put his foot down and claim he's always completely truthful.

We all know lying is wrong. But, that's not always enough to stop us from trying to pull a fast one every now and then. When you're caught red-handed in a lie, however? Well, that'll stop you right in your tracks, quicken your pulse and breathing, and cause the sweat to start prickling at your forehead.

If you've ever lied, you've probably experienced getting caught -- unless you're some sort of expert con artist. While being found out will never be a pleasant experience, there are a few things you can do to smooth things over and save your reputation when it happens.

1. Own Up to It

Being caught in a lie is embarrassing, which means your first instinct might involve denying it. It's tempting, but extending the lie with even more dishonesty will only make things worse for you.

Instead, you need to swallow your pride and admit to the fact that you were deceitful and wrong. Yes, it might make you turn beet red and grit your teeth. However, nipping things in the bud is necessary -- we all know that lies can quickly spiral out of control.

2. Apologize

If your lie is small enough to not have any majorly adverse consequences, you might think it's fine to just own it and move on. However, it's important that you apologize for your dishonesty -- no matter how minor and futile it seems to you.

There's no denying that lying is wrong, and other people are completely entitled to feel hurt by what you did and hesitant about working with you in the future. Needless to say, lying is something that deserves a heartfelt, sincere apology -- regardless of how insignificant you think your dishonesty was.

It'll show that you're an ethical and moral professional who truly values others' perceptions of your character and integrity. Plus, it's just the right thing to do.

3. Avoid Excuses, But Provide Explanation

Another thing that's tempting? Offering up all sorts of justifications for why you simply couldn't be 100 percent honest in the interest of saving face.

Excuses won't get you anywhere. But, that doesn't mean you can't offer any sort of explanation -- and, yes, there's a difference. An excuse is self-serving, while an explanation offers some context so that someone can see the situation from your perspective.

This won't get you out of the issue scot-free. However, sharing a little bit of your thought process will make it clear that there was some sort of reasoning behind your lie -- other than simply trying to be untruthful and malicious.

4. Do Damage Control

Chances are, you were caught in the lie because it had some sort of adverse effect on another person. Perhaps a colleague had to cover for you in a big presentation because you called in "sick". Or, maybe someone was chewed out in a meeting because you lied about having your portion of a project wrapped up.

The likelihood is high that someone was negatively impacted by your decision to be dishonest. So, this is the part when you step in and do some damage control.

Whether it means having to take on some extra work to get things where they need to be or having a somewhat uncomfortable conversation in order to determine what needs to be remedied, you need to be the one to bear the burden for your own bad decision -- nobody else.

5. Avoid It in the Future

Yes, we all stray from the truth every now and then. But, there's a big difference between a person who tells an occasional fib and a pathological liar. And, as you already know, you don't want to fall into that second category.

When you've been caught red-handed in the middle of deceit (and even if you haven't!) you need to make your best effort to stick with honesty moving forward. Otherwise, it won't take you long to develop a reputation as someone who's misleading and untrustworthy -- and nobody wants that.

Being caught in a lie is usually enough to make you break out in a cold sweat. And, while there's nothing you can do to rewind and undo your deceit, reacting appropriately can help to save your reputation. Use these five steps, and you're sure to recover.

Published on: Jul 27, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.