We might not want to admit it, but lying is a fact of life. The political election campaigns just finished give us more than enough examples of falsehoods to verify that lying is not infrequent. Of course, some lies are of little consequence such as those told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Others are more profound.
When you are in the intelligence services, the ability to gauge the truthfulness of someone’s statements can be critical. In fact, life or death decisions are impacted. Hence, they have expended considerable resources in developing models to help determine when they are being told the truth or being lied to.
Listening for lies
Some of the verbal cues that someone is not being truthful include:
- Failing to answer.
- Denial. If you ask someone, “Did you do it?” and he or she answers with “I didn’t do it,” “It was not me,” or “I didn’t do anything,” instead of a simple “no,” consider that significant.
- Repeating the question.
- Attacking. “Why are you wasting my time with this stuff?”
- Being too specific.
- Being too polite.
- Bringing up religion.
Looking for lies
There are also nonverbal cues that can indicate someone is being less that truthful. It’s important, the authors note, to consider only those cues that come in direct response to your questions. For example:
- Watch for disconnects. If the person nods affirmatively while responding “no” or shakes his head negatively while saying “yes” then that’s a disconnect, which can be an indication of deceptive behavior.
- Hiding. There’s a natural inclination to cover a lie, so someone telling an untruth may cover her mouth or eyes.
- Touching the face.
- Moving anchor points. Anchor points are those areas that keep someone in a particular spot or position. A person standing uses feet as anchor points, while a person in a chair is using the buttocks as an anchor point. Once those anchor points start shifting, it can be a sign of deceptive behavior.
- Grooming. A man might adjust his tie or a woman straighten her skirt or move her hair when responding to a question. They may even begin to tidy the area. Such gestures in response to a particular question can indicate deception.
All of this comes with the standard warning: Don’t try this at home. While there is some helpful information here, recall that even the best at “lie detecting” get it wrong more often than they’d like to admit.
So will you. And that’s no lie.