Are you good at telling lies? Are you good at noticing them? October 1, 2009
Recently the TV series “Lie To Me” started it’s second season. A show detailing the adventures of a human lie detector. And throughout the show, they offered hints on how to tell if someone is lying. Hints like micro-expressions, word choice, body movements, gestures and more. All very interesting.
Unfortunately, even with hints like that, even people you’d think would be good at lie detection – psychologists, poker players, actors – are no better than you.
When most people talk about lie detection, they consider things like a cheating husband, or thief claiming innocence. It is however very useful in everyday life. For example, have you ever had the experience where you asked someone for a favour and they flaked on you? How useful would it be to know when you ask for that favour you know they don’t express the whole truth when they say ‘yes’?
Other examples are when you talk to your boss about your raise, or when you ask a client if there is anything else you can help them with, or when you as a friend if they liked the cake you baked?
Maybe with that last example you’d rather not know…
Either way, lie detection is a science, and can be learnt. It’s also an art, but that too can be learnt.
So here are a few hints and tips for lie detection:
Be aware of the behaviours in front of you - How the person holds their hands, blinks, breathes, where they look, how long they pause. It all relates to their internal state.
Be aware of dramatic changes in those behaviours such as holding their breath, reduced or increased blink rate, faster or slower speech etc. These all relate to this individual, at this time, only. Tomorrow they might well be the opposite.
Listen, all the time – Verbal pacing, word choice, incessant talking, pauses (or lack of). They all give you hints of what’s going on internally for this person.
Look for anomalies - hands and eyes pointing in different directions. Saying yes and shaking their head no. Blink or look away.
Ask the right questions – Asking ‘are you lying?’ will (almost) always get a congruent no. Asking ‘is there anything else you want to tell me?’ may also get a no, but might also show some of the other hints above.
After a while, you might discover that someone ‘always’ covers their mouth when they lie, or that they ‘always’ look you right in the eye. You might also discover that there is no common element with someone else. Understand how someone lies is deeply personal and varies depending on the lie, context, environment, pressure they feel and many other variables.
In the end, once you know someone just lied to you, withheld some information, or just exaggerated the truth, what you do next is up to you.