The ability to smartly navigate through life with a talent to discern who is lying to you and who isn’t, is a pretty handy skill to have. Whether it’s contractors, neighbors, friends, employees, business associates or those who take care of or teach our kids, perceiving lies can help us evade all kinds of problems. Luckily, psychologists tell us most people are terrible liars. Below are a few of the primary ways to detect a liar from former CIA agent Jason Hanson.
Ask A Baseline Question: If it is someone you don’t know, first establish his mannerisms by asking something he/she is comfortable with and has no reason to lie. How was your weekend? Did you watch the big game last night? How many years have you been doing this career? You get clues about the traits and idiosyncrasies he/she exhibits when they are telling the truth.
The First 3-5 Seconds Are Critical: When asking a direct question like “Did you steal the money?” or “Was the job done right?” the first three to five seconds will give a good indication if the person is lying. Is there a slight stutter? Is the person a little confused over the details attempting to be recounted? Is the person nervous or overly self-conscious?
Deflecting and Redirecting Answers: A liar will normally avoid answering the questions directly. If a businessman asks for hard numbers in regards to a possible deal, the swindler may say things like: “I’ve always been a person of integrity. You can trust me.” “I’ve always been a dedicated Christian/ Mormon/Jew. etc.” “Buddy, we go way back to elementary school. I wouldn’t lie to you.”
Answering A Question With A Question: Similar to the ploy above, a liar will often question the accuser in order to steer away the focus. “How can you possibly think I would do something like this?” “Don’t you think you’re a little paranoid?”
The Total Non-Answer: This one is obvious to everyone. If the guilty person refuses to answer, and pleads the 5th, any intelligent person will figure out the person is guilty.
Mannerisms That May or May Not Expose: Just a few guilty mannerisms to look for are clearing the throat, adjusting collar or sleeve, fidgety feet, tossing hair, avoiding eye contact, and unusual facial expressions. Uncovering a lie should never rely on just one or two unusual behaviors.
Notice the Feet: Some people are good liars and learn to control any peculiar mannerisms. CIA agents are trained to take special note of the feet, which many expert liars are careless of. If a person’s feet are still during a normal conversation, but then start “shifting or jiggling” when a tough question is asked, this may indicate a lie.
The Cold, Unemotional Stare: Good liars, or those who think they are, make a concerted, unflinching effort to make direct eye contact during the lie and never waver or looking away for a second. CIA and customs agents are trained to spot those who seem to be trying too hard to be honest.
Manufactured Outrage: Some clever liars overreact and get hysterical when confronted. This is done so the accuser will think twice and never question their character again. It also is done to make the accuser feel ridiculous for even thinking about such a thing. Issues of trust ae inevitably brought up. Unless a person normally has an ill temper, feigned outrage is often an indicator of a cover up.
“Give him a break! No one’s perfect!”: In a group situation where, for example, several employees could have committed the theft, and one person who is innocent is singled out on questionable evidence, the guilty person may actually feel guilty and stand up for the accused. Most of the time he/she will suggest a very light punishment, and not necessarily be adamant in defending the accused. There is often a stark contrast between the punishment recommended by all the innocent people in the group – harsh – and the punishment recommended by the one trying to get away with it – light.
Too Many Details: A liar will elaborate a little too much to cover up for a fib. A few too many details are given as the liar wants to – consciously or not – make sure no stone is left uncovered as he/she attempts to convince the other(s) of an untruth or of their innocence.
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman – Miss Lewinsky”: Liars commonly emphasize “did not” rather than “didn’t”. They use formal instead of informal language. Liars also unconsciously attempt to distance themselves from the subject in question – “that woman”. This example is provided in the video below -- 7 minutes 32 seconds – 8 minutes 20 seconds.
Jason Hanson, Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life, Penguin– Random House, 2015
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