Coexistence 201: Lying

Back To Main
Coexistence 105: Making Friends

There are many reasons people will lie, though almost all of those reasons aren’t good

  • We are taught to lie and be lied to from the culture around us
    • Anybody acts a little different from anybody else, and there is always a “spin” about how they convey themselves in order to put it in the best possible light
    • Modern marketing “lies” to us by giving us perceptions of variety or brand quality that many times does not hold up
  • Pro-Social Lies – motivated by promoting the happiness of others
    • Likely the most frequent form of deception in day-to-day life
    • Generally considered to be harmless
    • Part of a complicated social contract that lets lying and accepting the lie be a normal way of life
  • Self-Enhancement Lies – motivated by selfish promotion
    • Involves many types of behaviors and does not involve just words
    • Can include owning knock-off expensive products, padded bras, clothing and cosmetic surgery
  • Selfish Lies – motivated by fear
    • Distracts out of fear of the truth implicating someone negatively, either directly or indirectly
    • Driven by self-protection
    • Can be driven by social pressures or risking losing status or reputation
  • Antisocial Lies – meant to deliberately harm someone else
    • The hardest to detect because of
      • High levels of inherent trust
      • An unwillingness to accept that trust has been violated
    • Usually made worse by personal bias and friendships

Ultimately, lying is a higher risk than it’s worth

  • By lying, you run the risk of ruining your credibility
    • A caught liar has lost a reputation far more than a truthful person who was caught doing something wrong
    • Even when the stakes are unbelievably high, there is a way to convey the truth while omitting information
  • Lies create at least two different stories the person has to keep straight: the story for whoever they told, and the truth
    • This extra stress makes it very hard to keep both stories straight, especially since many elements are similar
    • When the mind has forgotten the details, many times the multiple stories converge into one story
  • If lying is done frequently enough, it can become compulsive
    • Compulsive liars are guaranteed to be lonely, since nobody can trust them about anything they say
    • Compulsive lying is an addiction, and it can therefore be near-impossible to break the habit once started

Keep a few things in mind when looking for lies in others

  • There is no specific way to detect lies that universally applies to all people
    • Most people think they’re great at detecting lies, but the lie-detecting skills of most people are usually about 44% accurate
      • This means that it can be more likely to tell if someone is lying by flipping a coin
      • Even people who are in professions requiring detecting lies usually tend to assuming more lying than what really happens
    • Most of the popular lie-detecting cues are not really correct, but they make stories more dramatic
  • Look for changes in body language and expression
    • General dispositions are hard to determine without context as a lie
    • Learn to be a good listener – liars will often self-implicate themselves without meaning to
    • Pay attention to the focus of the sentences – intonation can completely redefine an idea
    • Establish baseline behavior – find out how the person is normally without pressure to be able to spot them acting differently
  • A liar is basically telling a fictional story, which means the details are not going to come easily to them

Their speaking and tone will often show certain patterns

  • Higher pitched voices that rise or even break – juveniles and women are more likely to be innocent in this
  • Speech hesitation – many people “buy time” with hesitancy, but good liars will make LESS errors than truth-tellers
  • Repeating questions they’re asked – another time-buying technique and way for them to gauge a reaction
  • Declaratory statements of their honesty or goodness – “I swear to God, I swear on my mother’s grave, I’m a Christian, etc” bolsters the appearance of credibility
  • Lots of focus on the story – the liar will create a believable lie, but it means there has to be a lot of energy put into creating a story
    • When suspecting deception in a story, look for the areas that are addressed least by the liar, since they are usually the parts they want to hide
  • Improper possessive pronouns (I, we, they) – it adds credibility and corroboration to a story
  • Narrative continuity – have the liar restate the story forwards and backwards and in the middle to find any narrative discontinuity, since the story is being made up
  • Past-tense versus present-tense and how it ties to emotional connection
  • A minimization of harsh words (dead, murder, rape, fired, stealing) – shirks responsibility
  • Equivocation (vague answers) – usually meant to hide a true opinion
  • Qualifiers (but, kind of, like, however, etc.) – creates a verbal escape hatch
  • Expanded contractions (I did not, I was not, etc) – for some reason people don’t say “didn’t, wasn’t, etc”
  • Using “I don’t recall” or “I don’t know” – stating a loss of memory is an easy out
  • Garbled or softly spoken usage of words – desire to not emphasize the idea

Watch their eyes

  • Gaze modalities – liars actually tend to look a person in the eye more often than honest people
  • Where the eye looks – contrary to popular culture, where they eyes look has no correlation to lying
    • There is one special exception when asking a pointed question the person should be able to answer quickly but they look away and act like they’re trying to recall something
  • Fear response – liars sometimes show dilated pupils and widened eyes as part of a fear reaction
  • Blink rate and eye closure
    • Liars tend to blink up to 20x more than a normal person’s blink rate
    • Liars tend to close their eyes longer than truth-tellers

Watch for facial expressions

  • The lower face is easy to change expression with, but the upper face usually shows a person’s feelings
  • The One-Second Friendship Test – when greeting a friend raise your eyebrows as soon as you see them, if they don’t respond in kind they are not your friend
  • Symmetry of expressions – genuine expressions on the face are typically symmetrical
  • Timing of emotional displays and emotional fluidity
    • Facial expressions of true emotions ALWAYS come before body expressions, so a liar will usually appear upset a half-second after they visually react
  • Facial reddening and blushing – increased blood pressure from stress can sometimes show itself
    • Sometimes veins can stand out more or even visible throbbing in the temples or throat
  • Tilting of the head – though there is nothing specific to look for, watch for rigidity of body movements
  • Micro-expressions – there is a split-second expression that shows how people truly feel, and it’s a matter of merely spotting it

Look at their body language as well

  • Shrugging – usually shrugging expresses uncertainty or indifference, meaning that it should be consistent with the verbal statement being expressed
    • Watch for “micro-shrugging”, split-second shrugs that betray hidden thoughts
  • Arms
    • Typically open or closed arms mean very little, except when the change directly ties to a specific stimulus
    • There will be inhibited “talking” with the arms when lying, including overall hand and arm movement
    • Adaptors (adjusting clothing or hair) will often increase or decrease
  • Hands
    • Typically there are slight twitches that show related to stress and unease
    • Steepling or “tenting” of the fingers are a demonstration of feeling powerful at the moment
    • Spidering of the fingertips (hands on a flat surface but not flat) – impatiently wants to say something or leave
    • Clenching of the fists – indicates anger, aggression or excitement
    • Palms facing up (aka the “believe me” posture)
      • honest people tend to have relaxed hands with slightly curled fingers
      • liars tend to have stiff hands with straight fingers, and tend to hold the posture longer
    • Brushing movements away from the body – a dismissive behavior and belies attitude towards the other person
  • Torso
    • Posture – liars tend to have a stiffer posture and shifts less, typically doesn’t lean forward as much
    • Alignment – extroverts tend to “lock on” to the other person while introverts tend to shy away, but it is a complex behavior
  • Legs
    • There is not as much in regards to stiffness and control by liars, but there are two big base behaviors that are readable:
      • Aggression – usually expressed through stomping or pantomime kicking
      • Fleeing – pantomime running, angling feet away
    • The wider the stance, the more comfortable the person is generally

Getting a confession

  • Nobody will confess unless they have a reason or are given a reason to do so
  • The liar needs to believe that the other person knows they are lying
  • An innocent person will typically:
    • Won’t evade the issue
    • Use contractions (e.g. can’t, won’t) and not use many time-buying mechanisms
    • Will generally offer someone specific when asked who should be responsible
    • Will usually vouch for someone else (not just themselves)
    • Usually won’t react angrily or negatively
    • Will admit the infraction actually occurred when uncertain
    • Will try to name someone else who could be the suspect
    • Will typically call the perpetrator sick or unwell or some other negative expression
    • Will usually deny the possibility of thinking of doing it
    • Typically gives an appropriate punishment for the infraction
    • Usually confident they will be absolved
    • Won’t blame a victim for the wrongdoing
    • Will usually reject the idea of a second chance for the guilty
    • Has no fears in testing to prove the person right
    • Will make an immediate denial that they are implicated
  1. Talk alone
    • We tend to share secrets when alone, and the social pressure to confess is too much to be done in a group
  2. Establish rapport
    • People are more likely to open up in proportion to the amount of things in common they have with others
    • Once people begin talking, it’s hard for them to stop
  3. Use the S.O.F.T.E.N. technique
    • Smile – be friendly and willing to listen, which shows being nonjudgmental
    • Open gestures – using open gestures shows approachability, talk with your hands
    • Forward leaning – lean forward in the conversation to make it more interpersonally close
    • Touch – appropriate touch on hands and arms also establishes rapport
    • Eyebrows raised – raising eyebrows while greeting and during the conversation establishes rapport, can also be used to keep the person talking
    • Nod – nodding helps a person confess, especially when they’re starting to, it affirms they are doing the right thing
  4. Determine if they are lying
    • It will require only asking a few questions and seeing the responses to it
    • The questions can be scattered throughout the context of the conversation
    • Be sure not to let emotions overrule objectivity, since many people may not be lying
  5. Convince them you know the truth
    • Once you have established rapport, you need the liar to believe 3 things:
      1. You know the truth
      2. You understand why he did what he did
      3. Telling the truth has greater rewards than continuing a lie
    • The person is already probably in a defensive position already, and so the person has already made a story
    • Let the person keep talking and their alibi will come undone, and use the following when possible:
      • Eyewitnesses – the person can’t 100% be sure they weren’t seen
      • Cameras – they are everywhere, and the person doesn’t have full confidence they weren’t recorded in the act
      • Cell phone records – can operate as a GPS even without GPS capability and can also track who made what calls when
      • Trace elements of human residue – the cocktail of oils and other elements that indicate our presence everywhere
      • Paper trails – records of all types and sorts
      • Gigantic file folders – a scary huge folder with lots of information implies lots of evidence
      • Whatever else comes to mind that could be used to implicate
  6. Confrontation
    • Meant to serve 2 purposes:
      1. Confirm that the person is truly lying
      2. Convince them there is evidence of their guilt and that there’s no reason to keep lying, and that all the person has to do is find out how to package and deliver the confession
    • Many people are uncertain about whether to confront a liar and when
    • Coming across to ask for a confession must be in a way that is confident and earnest
      • To try to sell the person on the idea or intimidate them into it will never work
      • The liar has to feel they are fixing a problem that is plaguing both of you
    • The best way is to be in a physically powerful position (you standing legs spread apart and them sitting) and use the “we” pronoun regarding the issue
      • Honest people will firmly deny still but liars tend to shrink away
  7. Overcoming barriers, objections and obstacles
    • Whenever there is a denial or redirection, the key is to stay focused
    • Put up your hand like a cop directing traffic, and either get back to the point or use their statement to strengthen your case and empathize further
    • Honest people will stand strongly on their convictions, and if this happens then it’s best to reevaluate their honesty
  8. Theme development
    • Creating a theme is making a rationalization for what the liar did
    • The rationalizations don’t have to be accurate or right, they just have to be a reasonable thing the liar will go with, some examples include:
      • Blaming the victim (including yourself)
      • Blaming stress
      • Blaming a friend or accomplice
      • Any combination of anything that can give excuses for their behavior
  9. Persuasion techniques – marketing/advertising techniques, use these sparingly or the liar will catch on
    • Authority and power – project power and confidence with clothing and composure
    • Reciprocity – give something “free” in order to hook others to give back in turn
    • Scarcity – create a shortage by giving them a “limited time opportunity” to come clean
    • Liking and similarity – as previously discussed, find common ground
    • Commitment and consistency – if the person trusts you on one thing, they are more likely to trust you elsewhere
      • We have been programmed from birth to conform, and these are tricks to get the person to open up more
        1. Get the liar talking and keep them talking – they will divulge more without realizing it
        2. Get an admission to a small offense first – people are willing to go from admitting a large guilt after a small one more easily than admitting any guilt from none
        3. Accuse the liar of doing something worse than you suspect they did – by comparison, they will naturally be inclined to deny the larger offense and admit the smaller offense
        4. Ask for anything else (aka “By The Way Syndrome”) – with a little more prodding the person will fully fill in all the information
  10. Recognizing when your techniques are working
    • When a person is cornered, they will demonstrate the surrender position referred to earlier: head bowed, leaning forward with loose arms
    • Given enough time, everyone lying will eventually be broken, but most people telling the truth will become more resolute
  11. The divergent question technique
    • There will be a crux where the person in the surrender position has to choose to confess and alleviate the stress or continue to lie and experience the stress of deception
      • Represented by C = T(P+U), or Confession = Time x (Pressure plus Uncertainty)
      • When asked at the proper Time when the liar is most Uncertain, the divergent question applies psychological Pressure that leads to a Confession
      • Let the liar know that the stress will not stop until YOU are comfortable with THEIR answers
    • Once the liar confesses to the divergent question, they will be submissive to any further questioning

There are some ways to be safe from liars online

  • Usually the more abstracted the online avatar is from the actual person the more likely they are deceptive about other things
  • People are typically more honest in emails than in chat rooms, text messages or phone conversations
  • Most people tend to use evasion, equivocation and vagueness instead of straight-up deception online
  • More people are comfortable with being deceptive online than in the real world
  • Men tend to lie more about
    • How much money they make
    • Social symbols of power – height, vehicle they drive, etc
    • Relationships they are already in (already married or already dating)
  • Women tend to lie more about
    • Age and weight
    • Openness to relationship possibilities
Next: Coexistence 202: Conflicts