Monday, 22 November 2010

How can you tell if someone is lying to you?

Wellbeing in the workplace is about so much more that ‘being well’. A feeling of security and trust in your day to day interactions is crucial in maintaining low levels of absenteeism and high levels of satisfaction and engagement. As the administrative sections of the NHS, feeling uncannily like the SS Titanic, slowly creep towards the iceberg – self protectionist behaviours will start to emerge.

Remember, if someone is lying to you it doesn’t always mean that they are telling you a blatant untruth, it can also mean that they are trying very hard to hide their true feelings.

So how can you tell if a colleague, candidate, employee, client or even a patient, is lying to you? One of the big problems in lying is that you have to adapt automatic reflex and response. The art of lying involves storing the truth in your frontal lobe to avoid revealing it, making up an alternative version of the truth, delivering it in a way that you hope is believable, gauging the reaction of the listener and then trying to avoid further questioning or attempt to change the subject. A lot more hard work than speaking your truth! This complex mix of activity means that liars will often slip up at some stage.

There is nothing new in this list but it may serve as a useful reminder on how you can monitor and maybe improve your working environment.

Instinct
In the good old stone age when life was hard but simple, man relied very strongly on his instinct. Was there a mammoth worth hunting in the near vicinity? Was that man in the cave next door about to steal your Raquel Welch lookalike? (for those of you old enough to remember the film 1 million years BC). Our relatively soft lifestyle now has dulled these instincts – but they are still there so use them. Trust your gut if there is something you are not quite sure about with an interviewee. Delve deeper if you feel a patient or colleague isn’t giving you the whole story.

There are some other very useful ‘tells’ to look out for.

Desmond Morris in his book People Watching, describes some research studying nurses who were asked to lie about some gory scenes they had seen in a surgical film. The five specific behaviours these nurses displayed can be applied to any other situation involving lies:

Abnormal gestures - A liar tries to control their body language. So when you would normally use your hands to emphasise a point, if you are lying, you tend to avoid this as it won’t feel ‘right’ So if someone is abnormally still while they are talking to you they may well be lying.

Hand to face movements - It is well known that touching your face, especially your nose (Pinocchio?) and mouth, is a sign of deception. The hand to mouth gesture is particularly telling as the subject is unconsciously trying to ‘shut themselves up’

Body movement - In the same way that children squirm, adults can shift uncomfortably, giving the message – ‘I wish I wasn’t doing this’

Use of a particular hand expression - Focussing on one action means that the liar can dampen down the other involuntary responses. Excessive use of the ‘hand shrug’ – an open handed dismissive gesture - demonstrates that the liar is absolving responsibility from their words.

Minute facial changes - That don’t seem to compliment the words being spoken.

Of course you may be faced with an accomplished liar who will try, with varying degrees of success, to mask these manifestations. But this activity may also be their undoing. For instance if someone looks you squarely in the eye the whole time they are engaging with you, this is abnormal. A normal open conversation will include a random variety of hand, facial and body gestures.

Another tell tale sign is Throat clearing. Even politicians who are so well schooled in the art of body language cannot hide this one.

It is no coincidence that in delivering his spending review speech a few weeks ago, George Osborne, the UK chancellor of the exchequer struggled throughout with a bad throat, constantly clearing it and breaking up his sentences with little choking coughs. I am not suggesting that he was lying but I have no doubt that he was uncomfortable in delivering many of the words.

And finally – men – there are some lies that are essential. Women prefer to hear these answers at all times…

‘No it doesn’t’…
‘Of course I do’ … and
‘Always’

2 comments:

mp said...

Dating advice at Finchers...awesome.

Finchers Consulting said...

Maybe a new sideline for Finchers?

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