Is someone lying to you? Would you know it if they were?
Jerald Jellison from the University of Southern California discovered that people are lied to up to 200 times a day.
So chances are good that you are being lied to…more than you imagined.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t that good at detecting lies.
At best you will have about a 50/50 chance of detecting if someone is lying to you.
It is almost like leaving the fate of your business and personal life to the toss of a coin.
If only there was a way you could beat the odds, put them in your favor.
If only you could learn how to detect the lies you are being told with up to 90% accuracy… Luckily you can.
You see lie detection is a learnable skill, and with the right process anyone can improve their ability to detect lies.
Imagine how useful this would be knowing if your business partner is telling the whole truth, or your spouse, or to be able to tell if the guy across from you at the poker table filled his inside straight.
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This process involves 3 steps:
Step 1 – Establish a Baseline.
Step 2 – Look for clusters that include both differences in baseline behaviors as well as common lying indicators.
Step 3 – If there is an indication you are being lied to, dig deeper for the truth.
Follow this process and you will become a much better lie detector.
Step 1: The Baseline
A baseline is a snapshot of how the person behaves and sounds in a normal situation when they are under no stress and have no reason to lie. This is by far the most important part of the process.
To begin the baseline process ask the person some questions they have no reason to lie about, like the weather, a recent movie or sporting event they may have seen. Then you start to pay attention how they normally look, talk, and the words they use when they are not lying. Start with a physical baseline.
Step 1a: The Physical Baseline
For the physical baseline you want to make note of all the physical characteristics they exhibit when they are talking. I usually do this by breaking it down by areas of the body.The areas to look at are:
The areas to look at are:
- The face
- The head
- The torso
- The arms and hands
- The legs and feet
Notice each part of the body and what they are doing during the normal conversation. Do they touch their face a lot, or rub their arms, or tap their feet? Do they talk with their hands? How much? These are the kinds of things that you are trying to notice so that when the baseline is over you can look for differences in these normal behaviors.
Ok now you have a snapshot of what they look and behave like physically under a normal, non-stress situation. Next get an audio baseline.
Step 1b: The Audio Baseline
During audio baseline make note of the how they sound and the words used during a normal non-stressful conversation. Pay attention to tone, volume, word choice, speech patterns, umm and ahhs, and anything else that seems unusual.
Normal Baseline Complete
Now you know what they look and sound like during low stress normal conversations. Your “normal” snapshot baseline is complete. This is the snapshot you will use to when comparing and looking for differences.
To get a full picture of the person we also need to get an emotional baseline. This would be a baseline of when they are excited or nervous about something. This is where most “lie detectors” get tripped up. They think someone is lying, but they are actually just really passionate or emotional about something they are discussing.
Make sure you do this if possible to reduce the chances you think someone is lying to you when in fact they are not.
Step 1c: Emotional Baseline
To do the emotional baseline ask the person questions like you did in step one, but this time you ask questions that you know will either get the person excited or upset so you can get a physical and audio baseline when they are in a more emotional state.
So instead of asking about the weather you might ask them about their favorite sports team, some cause they are passionate about, anything that will get them excited. You can also ask them about something you know that will upset them or make them nervous like the recent firings at work, or a close friends recently announced divorce or medical issues.
This will give you an opportunity to observe them and look for differences on the way they behave compared to the baseline you just took of their “normal” behavior. Perhaps when they talk about their favorite sports team they have more energy and movement, their voice has more inflection.
Maybe when you ask them about something that makes them upset or nervous they touch the back of their neck, stiffen up, change the volume or inflection in their voice.
These are the baselines for these conditions. This is there “normal” excited or upset/nervous baselines. Make note of what is the same and what is different from the baseline you took in the steps above.
Entire Baseline Complete
You are done with the entire baseline process and have a good understanding of what the person looks and sounds like under normal, non-lying conditions.
Step 2: Spotting Differences and lying cues
When deciding if someone is lying to you the first thing you need to do is look for differences from the baseline.
If they talked with their hands a lot during baselining, but when they are talking now their hands barely move, that would be a red flag.
If they never touched their face before but now they are, that would be a red flag.
If they talked normally before, but now their volume is way down or their speech is hesitant or monotone… that is red flag.
Look for any of these types of differences.
Next we will discuss some of the most common lying cues. These cues are statistically higher as an indication of lying if not part of the original baseline, and if seen should also be considered a red flag.
- Emotions on face that don’t match the words being said.
- Nodding yes when saying no, or vice versa.
- Touching the nose or mouth.
- Grooming or other self-soothing behaviors.
- Asymmetrical movements like the single shoulder shrug.
- Blocking or distancing behavior. Especially touching the ears or mouth when speaking.
- Long pauses or inclusions of umms or ahhs when speaking.
- Saying things like “To tell you the truth”.
- They seem to be thinking a lot harder than they should.
Now in the context of the conversation you may have noticed a number of difference red flags and/or a number of lying cue red flags. Keep these in mind.
Step 2b: Looking for Clusters
I consider a cluster any combination of three or more of the difference or lying cue red flags.
During your conversation as you make note of the red flags discussed above, do any of them qualify as one or more clusters?
If there is a cluster or clusters for any response or subject, you know the person is either lying or that there is something about that part of the discussion that makes them uncomfortable. Either way it warrants further investigation.
Step 3: Dig Deeper
During the discussion you found one or more clusters of lying indicators that you may need to look at more closely. What do you do?
First, you have to decide if it really matters. We get lied to every day. I see it from friends, family, coworkers, strangers. People lie… but many of them are white lies or the truth is it just doesn’t matter. If it isn’t important, let it go.
If you decide it is important and that you need to know if they are lying to you, then it is time to dig a bit deeper.
To dig deeper ask open ended questions (what did you mean when you said…?, or I would like to hear more about…).
This will force them to talk more giving you more of a chance to observe. Then dig down further as needed.
If you are discussing a story with a timeline ask them questions that don’t allow them to begin at the beginning.
Many people that are telling a false story memorize it in order and asking them questions out of time order makes it difficult for them to answer, often tripping them up. As part of his study on cognitive interviewing, R. Edward Geiselman from UCLA suggests asking them to tell the story backwards for the very same reason.
Lastly, you can also ask them a question that is completely unexpected and see how they react. Sometimes throwing them for this unexpected loop takes them so far out of the story they have practiced they can’t help but let a little truth through, or dig the deception hole bigger and deeper in an obvious way.
That is the entire process. By following this process you will drastically improve your lie detection abilities. Of course, don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t come easy or quickly. Any skill worth having takes time to practice and develop.
Lie detection is certainly a valuable skill, but remember when it comes to lie detection there is no quick fix or easy outs.
No one gesture or behavior that always indicates a person is lying. Sure this skill takes a bit of work to develop, but if it saves you your business, your relationship with a loved one, gives you more honest dialog with your children, your friends, your co-workers, then it was worth it.
What you have in the end is the opportunity for making smarter decisions, creating deeper relationships, and having more honesty in your life.
Can it be a bummer sometimes??? Definitely.
I won’t lie…you are getting lied to all the time and sometimes not knowing would be a blessing. Still, I would prefer to know and then decide how to react then to be in the dark. You will learn to let most lies go.
The majority of the time it just doesn’t matter. It will make you kinder, more patient and very well may add quite a bit of humor to your life. Especially in poker when that guy misses his inside straight.
Yet for some reason he thinks he can bluff you and goes all in… and you just smile as you push your chips toward the center of the table.