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…
Let’s step back to 2010, when Cleveland Cavaliers got knocked out of the basketball playoffs in the conference semi-finals. 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 Lie you 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 found that some chronic liars are capable, successful, even disciplined people who embellish their life stories needlessly. The article’s authors state 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?