Last week, I introduced readers to LaRae Quy in my article "An FBI Agent's 5 Steps to Developing Mental Toughness." Quy, who spent 23 years as a counterintelligence agent for the FBI, now spends her time writing, speaking, and teaching others tips that she learned while working for the Bureau. As you can imagine, these tips contain great lessons for entrepreneurs -- and for everyone else. (If you're interested in more from Quy, you can visit her website or follow her on LinkedIn.)
In the wake of the Volkswagen scandal that has rocked the world (you can read my take on that here), I returned to Quy to get her insights on lying and deception. Specially trained in the art of reading individuals and uncovering hidden truths, her advice can help you tell when job candidates, negotiating partners, or major automotive executives are being deceptive.
Here are Quy's tips:
1. Build rapport.
Experience shows that "good cop" typically gets better results than "bad cop."
Come across as empathetic in conversation, and you'll get the person to open up more than when you are cold and accusatory.
2. Surprise them.
A deceptive person will try to anticipate your questions, so that their answers sound instinctive and natural. They may even practice answering specific questions ahead of time.
Ask them something they don't expect, and they'll stumble.
3. Listen more than you speak.
Liars tend to speak more than truthful people in an attempt to sound legitimate and win over their audience. They will also use more complex sentences to hide the truth.
Be wary of the following:
- Stress usually makes people speak faster.
- Stressed persons often talk louder.
- Cracking in the natural tone of voice usually occurs at the point of deception.
- Repetitive coughing and clearing the throat are signs of tension.
This isn't to say that a conversation partner who does one or more of the above is lying to you. But if you witness these actions, proceed with caution.
4. Pay attention to how they say "No."
"No" is a key word to observe if you suspect someone is trying to mislead you.
A person is often demonstrating deceptive behavior when they:
- say "no" and look in a different direction;
- say "no" and close their eyes;
- say "no" after hesitating;
- say "noooooooo," stretched over a long period of time;
- say "no" in a singsong manner.
5. Watch for changes in behavior.
A subtle change in a person's deportment can be a strong sign of deception.
Be careful if a person:
- exhibits lapses in memory at critical times (despite being alert in earlier conversation);
- answers questions with very short answers, refusing to provide details;
- begins speaking more formally (this is a sign the person is getting stressed);
- uses extreme superlatives or exaggerated responses (everything is "awesome" or "brilliant" instead of good).
6. Ask for the story backward.
Truthful people tend to add details and remember more facts as they repeat their story. Liars, on the other hand, memorize their stories and try to keep them the same. (If they add details, they often don't add up.) If you suspect someone is being deceptive, ask the person to recall events backward rather than forward in time.
For example, start at the end of a story and ask them to explain what happened right before that point. And then, before that... and so on.
For truthful people, this makes recall easier. Liars often simplify the story to avoid contradicting themselves.
7. Beware of too many compliments.
Don't get me wrong, there are genuinely nice people in the world. But watch out if someone is trying too hard to make a good impression.
Agreeing with all of your opinions, constantly offering praise, and laughing at all of your jokes are signs that one lacks authenticity and sincerity.
8. Ask follow up questions.
Of course, none of us want to be lied to. But it's important to remember that people are uneasy with certain questions due to personal embarrassment, or because they are extremely dependent on the outcome of the conversation.
For example, a job interview candidate might be tempted to hide details about getting fired from a previous job. But if the person is qualified, has a great personality, and would fit great with your company, shouldn't you keep the conversation going?
If you're puzzled by a response, explore with follow-up questions. In the situation mentioned above, you might move the conversation forward in this way: "You know, I (or a friend/family member) once lost a job for making a really stupid mistake. Have you ever experienced anything like that? How do you think mistakes on the job should be handled?"
When in doubt, continue to ask discerning questions. In time, you'll be able to spot deceit like a pro.