Posted by: nedpelger | September 16, 2008

Who’s Lying?

I’m dealing with a situation on a jobsite right now where some extra work has come into dispute. Both parties will tell their side of the story at an upcoming meeting. So who’s lying?

We have to deal with that question in our work and personal lives on a regular (hopefully not too often) basis. Since body language often gives us a clue about liars. An article titled How to Detect Lies gives some useful information which I’ll summarize here.

A liar usually limits his or her physical expressiveness, keeping hand and arm motions controlled, appearing to become smaller, rather than larger. Hands touching the face, throat or ears are also a classic signal (beware, of course, that sometimes a person will just have an itch).

I think the most useful tip regards the timing and duration of emotional gestures. The laugh, the smile, the shocked look, the painful expression don’t look natural. For example, the forced smile shows a smile in the mouth but not in the eyes. Or the emotional gesture starts or ends abruptly, indicating it’s being considered and staged by the conscious brain, not just happening naturally.

Liars tend to avoid eye contact (or force it if they know this tell) and often speak in a monotonous tone without using pronouns.

As I probe around this jobsite dispute, I’ll be paying attention to these clues. After I determine a person lies, I’ll continue to see that person as a liar in every future interaction. Be careful to guard your reputation carefully. That lie that may roll off your tongue in some stressful situation can easily affect the way you are perceived for the rest of your life.

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