Everyone lies the only question is the degree to which one lies. Lying in business situations is particularly common so a good entrepreneur needs to be able to know how to tell if someone is lying. When you suspect an individual may be lying, it may be time to see how they react by asking a few questions to detect lying behaviors and provide evidence of their deceptions. Your goal when questioning is to probe for more information, not to pummel the other person into submission as often seen on TV.
In an ideal situation, you should be able to see the entire person’s body and not be sitting across a desk where much of their body is blocked by a table unless the table top is made of glass. In fact, a common involuntary behavior of a liar is to place an object, such as a purse or other objects between themselves and the interviewer.
During interrogations, professional lie-spotters will often place the subject on a chair in the middle of a room so they can look for clues of deceptive behaviors from head to toes during questioning. Of course, you do not want to come across as interrogating the person, but not having an object such as a desk or table between you and the other person or sitting in a neutral location where you can observe the other person entire body language such as on a couch is often a much better option than from asking questions from behind a desk in your office.
During questioning, most liars will give their first clue of deception within the first 5 seconds of being asked a question, so be sure to look for the clue that they are lying with each answer. What you are looking for are clusters of clues. When you spot two or more deceptive behaviors- which may include verbal and nonverbal clues- during a single question, there is a good possibility that the person is not being truthful and further probing may be in order.
It is also a good practice to leave a three or four-second gap after the person completes their response before asking a follow-on or new question. This dead-air time will rattle a liar emotionally, and they will frequently provide more incriminating information.
7 Verbal Clues of Deception
When asking questions of a suspected liar, there are verbal clues that many liars reveal that they are trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Here is how to tell if someone is lying to you by spotting seven verbal deception clues.
1. They repeat your entire question before they answer– This is a common stalling tactic that liars use to fill the dead space, while their mind attempts to formulate an answer that will not uncover their deception to be consistent with other facts they shared previously.
2. They reply with a dodgeball question – A dodgeball question is not answering the question, but instead asking you a question right back. An example might be “Why do you ask?” Dodgeball questions are another stalling tactic while they think of an appropriate response, but are also often used to try to determine what it is that you might already know.
3. Respond with a guilt statement – Here, they are not answering the question but instead making a statement to try to make you feel guilty in the hopes that you will not ask any more questions. An example of a guilt statement is saying something like “Are you questioning everybody?” Guilt statements may also come in the form of attacking the questionnaire or a third party. This is an aggressive response and a solid clue that they are lying.
4. Responding with a protest statement – Rather than answer the direct question, they respond with a list of reasons why you might not want to question their character. An example might be “Why would you suspect me? I give to charities and I’m a God-fearing person that goes to church every Sunday. Just look at my track record!” One key to detecting if someone is lying when they are questioned about an incident is that liars try to convince you of their innocence while truthful people simply convey the facts.
When you ask a direct question, such as “Is this your best price” and the other person evades the direct question and instead lists a bunch of reasons why you should buy whatever they are selling, is a strong indicator of deception. Protest statements are one of the strongest indicators the other person is lying since they are designed to convince you and not just convey the facts that you are asking them to fill in.
5. Answering with too little or too much information – When someone thinks you suspect them of lying, they will always try to give you the best answer that will corroborate their story. This takes lots of mental energy. However, when a person is lying, they will often overelaborate a story in the hope that by providing more details it will prove that what they are saying is in fact true. On the other hand, they may go in the complete opposite direction and provide no more information than absolutely necessary to avoid saying something that may contradict a previous statement.
6. Response includes bolstering statements – Bolstering statements can be Exclusionary Qualifiers as well as Biblical-related statements as part of their answer. An exclusionary qualifying statement is something like: “… to the best of my knowledge…” or “…to be honest, as far as I know…” Essentially, they are qualifying the answer so that if later you discover that is it untrue, they can more easily claim they were not lying, and just got the facts wrong. Another bolstering statement is biblically oriented and might include statements “I swear on a stack of Bibles,” or” God knows I’m innocent”.
7. Responding with distancing statements – A distancing statement uses pronouns rather than a person’s name. Consider the statement made by President Bill Clinton when he said: “I never had sexual relations with that woman”. By using “that woman” instead of using Monica Lewinski’s name in the initial statement, Bill Clinton was distancing himself. Liars tend to distance themselves by removing “I” or not using a specific person’s name in their answers. The use of distancing statements is often a giveaway that an individual might be lying about something.
Another form of distancing is a person’s failure to deny. A liar will often not directly deny an allegation. For example, if you asked an employee if they stole something, a liar might reply with “I would never steal from the coffee fund”. In contrast, someone telling the truth would reply “I never stole from the coffee fund”.
Storie Clues to Deception
A story has a preamble, main event, and an epilogue. When somebody spends only a little bit of time talking about the main event such as theft of property of falsifying data, and spends more time talking about the preamble things that led up to the event, it can be a clue they’re lying.
Moreover, an epilogue is something that a person may have learned from a particular experience, and is often something that’s quite elaborate for somebody who is telling the truth. However, when someone is lying about an event, they really don’t want to spend a whole lot of time talking about what they’ve learned or anything else for fear of entangling themselves further. Liars generally don’t include an epilogue in their story.
Another clue used to tell if someone is lying is that liars tell their story in chronological order, while in contrast, truthful people generally talk about the most intense part first and use vivid sensory details in their description. Only then do they fill in the story with supporting details later.
To trip up a suspected liar after they tell you their story, you want to ask for a more probing question by jumping to different parts of their story to see if they squirm. For example, ask them for what happened right “before” something, since that kind of questioning breaks the chronological order and is more difficult for a liar to keep straight.
According to Pamela Meyer, if you suspect somebody is lying to you should use the 5-step BASIC process when asking questions to detect lying behaviours. BASIC is an acronym to help you remember each of the 5-steps.
B – stands for Baseline Behavior -what they normally do.
A– stands for Asking open-ended questions. Liars often try to determine what you might know already, so using open-ended questions forces them to recount details that didn’t happen.
When asking open-ended questions, never use the word “why” which implies that they did it. Instead, replace it with “what”, which is more distancing. For example, don’t say “Why did you steal the money?” Instead, ask “What made you steal the money?”
You also have to remember that Liars rationalize their behavior with an internal narrative, which is how they sleep at night with their lies. Sometimes a liar will say it’s okay to cheat on their taxes because everyone does. As part of asking open questions, consider what internal dialogue they may have, and ask questions that might reveal specifics about their story and why they might think it’s okay.
S – stands for Study the Clusters. It’s not about any single thing that uncovers a deception, but two to more clues for each question asked, and represents behaviors that are outside of their baseline.
I – stands for Intuit the Gaps. Gut reactions to a story should not be ignored. In fact, there are four types of intuit gaps that can reveal that a person is lying, which are statement gaps, logic gaps, behavior gaps and emotion gaps.
C – stands for Confirm. If you suspect somebody is lying about something, ask the same question in different ways to see if they answer it a little differently.
How can you use lie spotting questioning techniques to determine if someone is lying?