Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment: we all lie. The average person will tell at least one or two lies every day. There are no exceptions to this rule, but there are some people who tend to lie more often. People who are in a position of negotiation will lie half of the time if they have a motive or opportunity to do so.
But it doesn’t take a negotiation to encourage a lie. It’s done so that the upper hand can be obtained. I know it feels great to hit someone with a zinger they don’t expect, even if it is a lie. Afterward, however, the lie doesn’t feel so good. Because of this feeling of regret, the assumption is made that everyone has that feeling.
They do not. So instead of trying to get better about finding out what is a lie, I’ve decided to work with liars on a different level. Here’s what I do.
#1. Encourage sharing. People want to feel like they’re equal to one another. That’s why when someone shares a secret, others also want to share their own secret as well. That sharing process helps to level the playing field. I encourage sharing by offering specific and unanticipated information to the other person or party. This creates a transparent response and reduces the likelihood of a devastating lie coming up later on.
#2. Ask good questions. I consider myself a pretty honest person. I’m not going to go out of my way to lie. I’m also not going to go out of my way to divulge information to someone who may not need it. A lie by omission is still a lie, no matter how we might try to justify it. In order to get the complete story, I’ve found that pessimistic questions tend to elicit a more honest response. Many people find it difficult to negate a true statement that is offered in the form of the question.
#3. Listen for an answer. Ever notice how a politician will receive a question about their thoughts on taxes and wind up discussing something about foreign policy instead? Dodging a question is a skill that some have become experts at doing during a conversation. This is a tough lie to detect because many listeners don’t notice a dodged question. Instead of being impressed by an eloquent sidestep, listen for an actual answer to your question. If you don’t get one, then do what I do – ask the question again.
#4. Stay away from privacy concerns. It’s important to have privacy, but I’ve found that discussing confidentiality issues can actually cause people to lie more. This is because people become suspicious if all you’re doing is talking about privacy concerns. If you offer a large amount of protection, people are more likely to lie. If you offer no confidentiality, people are also more likely to lie. So if you need to mention privacy issues, do so briefly, but then just move on with your conversation.
#5. Inspect for leaks. The truth we need will often come out in other ways when dealing with a professional liar. We can detect information from the questions they ask, their body language, and even in a joke here or there. When a leak is detected, a savvy liar might have done that on purpose to throw you off. I’ve found that leaks tend to be genuine and honest because they are often mindless.
Dealing with a liar is never fun. This is why I’ve worked to remove as much lying as possible from my life. Yet sometimes there is a need to be involved with a liar in a conversation, a business deal, or in some other way. These are my methods – what are yours? I’d love to hear how you confront lying when you discover it.