Did you know you are being lied to between 10 and 200 times a day? And before you recoil in shock, try to get your head around the fact that both you and your spouse are lying to each other in one out of every 10 interactions.
If you’re not married, then this falls to one in every three. Furthermore, if you meet someone new, you will lie to them at least three times in the first 10 minutes.
Lying is a vital part of our evolutionary existence and is intertwined into every aspect of our lives. We are all deeply hesitant about telling the truth. Even our gender will determine what we will lie about.
Men will lie eight times more about themselves than others and women will lie eight times more about others than themselves.
Lies have no power unless you agree and participate in the lie
Very few of us ever want to be told the truth. We want people to confirm that what we want to believe is the truth. So, we only tell and listen to the truth as needed.
Sometimes we will lie for very good reasons. Women are more likely to lie to protect someone else, but most of us lie to try to fill the gaps in our lives that we just don’t understand.
To understand why we all lie so much, we need to accept two “truths”.
Lying is a cooperative act
For a lie to work, it must have two things. Someone to tell the lie, and someone who is willing to be lied to. Lies have no power unless you agree and participate in the lie.
This may not always be harmful though. Your partner might lie so as to allow you keep your lie. “No, your bum doesn’t look big in that.” By you asking them the question in the first place, you are looking for them to team up with you in your own lie, not get the truth.
Similarly, we might lie to try to protect another person’s self-esteem. How many times have you effusively thanked someone for their Christmas present, when, you are actually trying to decide who you can gift it to next year?
Before you can ever spot lies, you must first understand why you are accepting them. Every time you don’t confront the lie, you are agreeing to be lied to, for your own reasons.
Lying is our attempt to bridge that gap between what we are really like and what we want to be and wish we could be
Everyone is willing to give you something for whatever it is they are hungry for. Be it catfishing, dating scams or ponzi schemes, conmen know what it is you are hungry for. By offering you something for nothing, you end up giving them something for nothing.
Politicians are successful because they figure out what it is their electorate want to hear and promise it to them. So, the next time you complain about politicians not keeping promises, ask yourself why you chose to accept what they said in the first place.
If you don’t want to be deceived, then start by identifying what it is you are hungry for. We all hate to admit it, but we all wish we were better somethings or other. Better husbands/wives, parents, more powerful, taller, richer etc.
Lying is our attempt to bridge that gap between what we are really like and what we want to be and wish we could be.
We all say we are against lying, but are secretly for it
Lying is not only part of our culture, but we also couldn’t have won the evolutionary race without it. Research shows that the more intelligent a species is, the more likely it is to be deceptive.
Babies can fake cries before they are a few months old. By the age of one, they have learned how to hide something from you. Two-year-olds can bluff and by five years of age, we are able to manipulate by flattery to get what we want. By nine we have become masters at covering up. By the time you were 18, you were lying to your mum in one out of every five interactions.
We are now living in a “post-truth society”. Our lives are filled with spam, fake social media profiles, biased media and we are subjected to myriad of manipulation techniques by people to get you to do, believe or give them what they want.
People who are over determined in their denial will resort to formal rather than informal language. “I did not do that thing”. Or will use qualifying language like, “Well to tell you the truth”, “Well, in all honesty” etc. They might repeat the question in its entirety or pepper their account with far too much detail.
2. Body language
Before we can understand body language slips, let’s get rid of the myths first. Liars don’t fidget when they lie, instead, they freeze their upper bodies. Neither do they avoid eye contact; they look you in the eyes to compensate for the myth that liars won’t look you in the eye.
We think warmth and smiles convey truth and sincerity, but if you know what to look for you can spot a fake smile a mile away. We can contract the muscles in our cheeks to smile, but we can’t voluntarily contract the muscles in our eyes.
Learn to identify the discrepancies between someone’s words and actions e.g. closed body language like folded arms and legs and open language of trust and warmth.
The most telling sign, however, is attitude. Someone who is being honest, is cooperative, shows you that they are on your side, enthusiastic, willing and helpful to getting you to the truth.
You think your partner is doing something. If they are honest, they will follow you, whilst you guide yourself to the truth. A dishonest person will try to guide you to their lie.
Deceptive people are more withdrawn, look down or stare at you more
Honest people will be willing to brainstorm ways to help you explore their behaviour. They freely provide details. They will be infuriated all the time if they suspect that they are being blamed in the wrong, not just in flashes.
Deceptive people are more withdrawn, look down or stare at you more. Their reaction is to try to bring the story to other irrelevant places or wherever they want to bring you.
Let them tell their story in strict chronological order. You are not accusing them of lying, but that you do need convincing. Then get them to tell their story backwards. Truth tellers are able to do this as they are visualising the timeline. Liars can’t, as they are reciting a prepared script.
Watch for their reactions and look to see what questions bring the highest number of deceptive tells. Listen more carefully, probe their answer. Walk into curiosity mode. Ask more questions, like, “Help me understand what you are saying?” Don’t attack the person.
Above all, trust your own instinct. If you feel in your gut that they are lying, then they probably are.
Identifying when you are being lied to is not about catching people out, but spotting when they are being deceptive. Spotting deception allows us to have mature conversations with difficult people.
Being able to tell when someone is lying to us helps us get to the truth. Truth builds trust in relationships. However, this works both ways. We need to look at why we are lying and understand what gaps we are trying to fill first, before we can ever spot when we are being deceived.
Everyone can spot lies 50% of the time. However, what you are probably not good at is to use this to get to the truth. Some people are better at lying than others, but we all use the same techniques and make the same mistakes when we lie.
However, just because we show deceptive “tells” when we talk, these are not evidence that we are lying to the question being asked, but that we are being deceptive. Trained interrogators are able to spot these and are able to focus more on the question that has been asked. By doing so, they are able to uncover the deception and get to the actual truth.