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Clinton to the American Public

In business, politics and romance, it would be nice to know when we’re being lied to. Unfortunately humans aren’t very good at detecting lies. Our natural tendency is to trust others, and for day-to-day, low-stakes interactions, that makes sense.

But while it would be too much work to analyze every interaction for signs of deception, there are times when we really need to know if we’re getting the straight story. Maybe a crucial negotiation depends on knowing the truth, or we’ve been lied to and want to find out if it’s part of a pattern.

Lies told on the printed page or on a TV screen may be the hardest to detect. When a journalist at a respected publication tells a tall tale–like the New York Times’ Jayson Blair or The New Republic’s Stephen Glass–those of us without reams of time on our hands aren’t likely to uncover it on our own.

Face to face it’s easier to make our own judgments about whether someone is telling the truth.

That said, police officers and spies use a slew of interrogation tricks that the rest of us can adopt to improve our detection odds. The professionals look and listen for signs of nervousness, and pay close attention to the content of a suspect’s story. Does it contain a lot of detail? Does it stay consistent through repeated tellings?

Of course, there will always be those who have honed their deception skills to perfection, and they’re never easy to catch. Hardened criminals, especially ones who have been interrogated dozens of times, get better and better at lying, says 20-year New York Police Department veteran Derrick Parker. Magicians also know how to deceive by exhibiting a pleasant manner and relying on spectators’ assumptions.  Here are 10 Ways to Tell if A person is lying to you . . .

1) Watch Body Language – Derrick Parker, a 20-year veteran of the New York Police Department and co-author of Notorious C.O.P., says to look for physical clues, especially sweating and fidgeting.

2) Seek Detail – Liars’ stories often lack detail, says Lindsay Moran, a former CIA officer and author of Blowing my Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy. Her solution:  Push your subject for particulars.  The more minutiae a liar has to provide, the more likely he/she is to slip up.

3) Beware Unpleasantness – “Liars are noticeably less cooperative than truth-tellers,” found psychologist Bella M. DePaulo and Wendy L. Morris in a review of studies on deception.  “Liars also make more negative statements and complaints than truth-tellers do, and they appear somewhat less friendly and pleasant,” they write in The Detection of Deception in Forensic Contexts.

4) Observe Eye Contact – A subject’s failure to make eye contact is often a sign of deceit, say both former NYPD officer Parker and former CIA agent Moran.

5) Signs of Stress – Look for dilated pupils and a rise in vocal pitch.  Psychologists DePaulo and Morris found that both phenomena were more common in liars than truth-tellers.

6) Listen for the Pause – Forced to make up a story on the spot, most speakers will take a beat or two to collect their thoughts.

7) Ask Again- Police interrogators often ask suspects to repeat their stories, and listen for inconsistencies to ferret out lies.  But be careful: “Smart people maintain the consistency of lies better than dumb people,” says psychologis Robert Feldman, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts.

8)Beware Those Who Protest Too Much – Someone who consciously is trying to make you think he/shes’ honest –for instance, by injecting the phrase “to be honest” –may be lying.  Most people assume they will be trusted most of the time.  If someone expects otherwise, take a moment to ask yourself why.

9) Know Thyself – One reason liars succeed is that listeners don’t really want to know the truth, says psychologist Feldman.  So be honest with yourself about what it is you want to hear.  You may wish to believe that a trusted employee didn’t have his hand in the cookie jar.  But does his story actually make sense?

10) Work on Your Intuition – “Good human lie detectors, if there are such persons, are likely to be good intuitive psychologists.  They would figure out how a person might think or feel if lying in a particular situation, compared to telling the truth, then look for behavioral indications of those thoughts or feelings, “write De Paulo and Morris.

(Excerpt taken from Forbes Magazine )

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