by Body Language Expert Kevin Hogan
Con artists, hustlers, card sharks, they all have to lie, it’s how they get by. But we spin stories for our spouses, co-workers and friends every day.
Today I want to show you a few key things I look for to spot deception. Follow along all the way to the last word and you will gain some pretty valuable insights…
Cleveland got knocked out of the playoffs in basketball this year. They arguably should have gone to the Championship because their star, LeBron James, is the most important and valuable player in the game since Michael Jordan. That’s pretty good company.
James, according to Stumbling on Wins, will generate a superstar level number of wins for any team he would play for. This information provides part of the necessary context for evaluating his body language.
Cleveland lost in Game 6 and the press interviewed him. Tom Lorenzo of Fanhouse contacted me to analyze his nonverbal communication to determine whether James would be back in Cleveland as the city was very rightfully concerned they would lose an economic force to another city.
I didn’t follow basketball this year, but I was happy to look at the video. Fans felt he couldn’t possibly leave Cleveland. Embarrassingly enough, I had no idea what was going on.
To give you an idea what I look for, I’ll quote from Lorenzo’s Fanhouse indepth interview with me.
“Some of the early questions were in regard to his injured elbow, which Hogan concluded LeBron was ‘straightforward’ about. After a brief discussion about said elbow, the conversation was dominated by his pending free agency.”
“LeBron was asked various questions as to whether or not he has made up his mind already on where he is going to play next season, and if so, where will he play. Of course, LeBron danced his way around the questions with a series of statements alluding to the fact that he hasn’t even thought about where he’s going to play next season. Mr. Hogan didn’t necessarily buy that.”
“As far as ‘leaving Cleveland,’ he consistently rubs his ear or scratches his nose,” he (Hogan) says. “That doesn’t mean someone is lying, but it does often indicate a person is anxious about something or that there is an inconsistency there.”
“He (Hogan) then goes on to say that, “based on the first four minutes of the video … he won’t be back in Cleveland.” Interesting.
“Hogan got from the video the impression that there was ‘nothing to indicate [LeBron] felt significantly connected’ to the city/people/fan base (of Cleveland).”
“The same goes for his feelings toward his teammates. The same ‘facial touches’ happened when [LeBron] said ‘we all get along,’ ” Hogan explains. “I’m not saying they don’t, but that was a random comment and I would venture a bet that they don’t.”
This week the world of sports, a major economic engine in any metro area, was shaken when James said he would be off to Miami. In Cleveland, the team’s owner verbally absolutely ripped James into pieces speaking of betrayal and so on.
Did LeBron really not know he was going to leave Cleveland? If he did know and then went on to say that he got along with his teammates, isn’t that a big lie?
I would argue that it’s intentionally deceptive, you can call it a lie, but it is The Everyday Lieyou and I use when we don’t want to cause someone to look bad by what we say. The Everyday Lie is also the lie where not only are you protecting yourself from some pain, but protecting someone else from a similar pain.
To think that something is the truth or a lie, can be very remedial. It’s more efficient to understand that all communication happens on a continuum much like a thermometer measures the temperature.
“Honey, how do I look?” (She looks like hell.)
“You look fantastic, sweetheart.”
The Everyday Lie. If you don’t…you don’t have many friends.
People who boast they don’t lie…are lying… and I prefer to use the term “deception” because deception is not a term with judgment attached to it. Any decent person would have said what LeBron said at the time. Just because it wasn’t “true,” doesn’t mean that he was being morally deficient. So the next time *you* deceive someone it’s worth thinking about this episode. And the next time you believe someone is deceiving you, it’s truly worth thinking about this episode.
You may look like hell…do you REALLY want to hear that you do?
There are those of us who constantly give in to the pull to tell a more meaningful lie. That is why many psychiatrists consider chronic lying a symptom of a deeper emotional problem such as delusional thinking, psychopathy or narcissism.
But are they right? I would argue that with the exception of pathological liars, everyone “lies” dozens of times each day. You, me, pretty much everyone over the age of 5. (Kids tell the truth, which is one reason they can be particularly embarrassing to have around…they say the darnedest things….)
Deception is a survival mechanism. It is also a social necessity for peace in a home, a community, a nation, the world.
But…while not all deception is “bad,” it is certain that it *can be* very, very bad.
The Every Day Liar
Provocative new research suggests that people lie chronically for a wide variety of reasons. I certainly don’t interpret the findings precisely as they do, but it is important to look at and weigh other experts’ opinions.
In a recent article reviewing 100 years of literature on the subject, as well as several cases in the news, doctors at Yale University find that some chronic liars are capable, successful, even disciplined people who embellish their life stories needlessly. The article’s authors stat that “they” (liars) don’t suffer from an established mental illness, as many habitual fabricators do. They’re just…liars.
“Many of us have known these kinds of people; it’s like they wake up in the morning and have to tell the most preposterous stories for no apparent reason,” said Dr. Charles Dike, a co-author of the article with Yale psychiatrists Dr. Ezra Griffith and Madelon Baranoski. Their findings were presented at a recent conference of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, a forensic psychiatry group.
These men and women are viewed as otherwise normal. Yet they have this compulsion. As liars, they become more sympathetic figures. They are neither as manipulative or malicious as they may seem. They are at least predictable.
“In these cases where there is no underlying mental problem,” Dike said, “we then can ask: What about the individual’s life is causing this abnormal pattern of deception?”
Psychologists have long known that some deception is a normal, healthy part of human behavior, often starting in children as young as 5 or 6. In adulthood, most people lie routinely, if usually harmlessly, throughout the day. Remember the Jim Carrey film, Liar, Liar??
In one continuing experiment, Robert Feldman, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has had people record their conversations over a couple of days. Watching the tapes later, the men and women tally their own deceptions. The average fib rate: three for every 10 minutes of conversation!
“One woman heard herself on the telephone, sympathizing with her boyfriend who was sick,” Feldman said. “At the time of the conversation, she told us, all she was thinking was, ‘What a big baby.'”
Why do people lie?
To avoid hurting other people’s feelings, to cover our own embarrassment, to reassure the needlessly anxious, to spare unnecessary headaches. But, the lying becomes less appropriate when used as an all-purpose coping strategy.
A behavior common to nearly all chronic liars is that they change their behavior when caught. “One person who I went to college with would make up fantastic stories, saying he was going off to Europe, for example,” said Dike. “Then you would see him later that evening. He’d say, ‘Oh, the trip was canceled at the last minute.’ There was always an explanation.”
Do Chronic liars have some kind of “double consciousness”?
What else should you be watching for?
Do Chronic Liars Have a “Double Consciousness?”
On psychological tests, chronic liars do show evidence of a neurological imbalance. They have highly developed verbal skills combined with slight impairment in the frontal lobes of the brain, which critically examine what we’re saying.
One psychiatrist who studied pathological liars in the early 1900’s described what he called a “double consciousness” in which a person runs two narratives in their head, a desired life and an actual one, with the former often overwhelming the latter.
We all daydream. We all buffer ourselves against painful truths and massage the past. The pathological liar’s biggest violation may be simply in taking those private deceptions public.
How Do You Spot a Liar?
Detecting Deception is no easy task. Today you find out how to spot a liar.
There are different kinds of deception and there are different degrees of deception.
Some kinds of deception like omission occur when someone doesn’t tell you something that is important. They leave it out.
“I was at the bar last night honey.” Vs. “I was at the bar last night honey and then I met this woman and ….”
There are also errors of commission.
“This car has never been in a car accident.” (It actually has…twice.)
The first key point you need to understand is that not all lies are evident in nonverbal behavior. There are ZERO clues or cues for many lies.
Some people are good liars. Some people are pathological liars. Some people rehearse what their “story” will be over and over so it comes naturally.
Other times when people lie, there ARE cues and clues.
There are a number of things I look for when I think someone might be deceiving me.
The most important cue is usually expressed by their feet.
People generally have no trouble controlling their torso, even their hand gestures and sometimes facial changes. But one thing that is hard to pay attention to for the “liar” is feet!
When communicating with someone, I gain a sense for how their feet normally move in conversation. When someone deceives, their feet “behave” differently. That’s my best and probably most reliable cue.
Next up, I watch pupil changes. Some people’s pupils get bigger; some people’s get smaller. I’m not so concerned about the direction of the size (bigger vs. smaller). I’m interested that there is or is NOT a change.
The third thing I look for are expressions of boredom, indifference, and unconcern.These are tough states to fake for most people because they are typically unaware of their behavior. In young people, this collection of vocal and nonverbal cues is even more obvious to the body language clue reader.
The “liar” will try and look indifferent, but because they aren’t used to behaving indifferent they are trying to guess what they are acting like. Unfortunately for them, it’s usually a dead giveaway.
If people stumble over their words, or repeat phrases or words – when this is not their normal behavior, this is a pretty useful “tell”, as well.
On the other hand, if someone is on trial in the Kevin Hogan Mind Court…there are some things that I look for to find “innocent”.
What signs, or “tells” do I look for?
First, can or does the person give a genuine smile?
It is HARD to give a real life smile when you are lying to someone. Obviously, the pathological liar can, but take out the pathological liars and you have a real actor who can genuinely smile and lie at the same time.
Next, I’m looking for “verbal immediacy”.
Does the person answer me quickly, or normally? It’s tough to lie and communicate quickly. The faster you talk, the less time there is to process information. When you’re lying, it takes time to process information to make sure the story “comes out right.”
This doesn’t mean that people who respond slowly are lying. It means that coupled with other “innocence cues,” I become more convinced whether someone is telling the truth or lying to me.
Most people can’t determine whether someone is lying or not with any degree of accuracy. When crossing cultural lines, it’s even more difficult to accurately predict whether someone is being truthful or not.
Sometimes experienced police officers show better than chance accuracy in deception but typically most people can’t figure out truth vs. lie more than 55% of the time.
The reason is that people are looking at the wrong things.
They look at eye contact.
Fact is that eye contact isn’t all that relevant in determining most people are lying or telling the truth.
Another cue people look for is nervousness, and yes, nervousness IS slightly correlated to lying but it’s also correlated to being scared and afraid of being accused of lying!
Want to have a good guess as to whether someone is telling the truth of lying to you?:
Record the conversation and then listen to the conversation when you aren’t in the presence of the person.
People who can’t see the person who is talking usually are better at detecting truth vs. lie. Why? The vocal cues are some of the strongest to pick up on.
Because it is such a well-kept secret in the nonverbal community, there is one powerful strategy you can use to improve your odds of detecting deception.
Liars must construct their stories in chronological order. People who tell the truth will be all over the map.
The liar has to create a story, remember it in order and tell it chronologically. Because there is no actual memory to recall, they have develop a false memory.
The truth teller might often SOUND like they are lying because they are all over the map, but the fact is that is more likely to be a sign of truth than fiction.
Ask the person what happened in REVERSE chronological order. The liar won’t be able to do it most of the time.
Now, you know how to spot a liar!
How Can You Always Tell When Someone is Lying to YOU?
BODY LANGUAGE: Decoding, Interpreting & Mastering Non-Verbal Communication
with body language expert Kevin Hogan
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