Is there anything more painful, more likely to dent your trust in others and your belief in relationships, than being lied to?
Unfortunately many have been in that position, but many more besides go on to find better, stronger, happier relationships with men and women who honour transparency, openness, honesty and trust.
Still it’s always nice to have a few tricks up your sleeve to help you spot those early warning signs that someone isn’t all that they seem, and that they might not be telling you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Step forward Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy. She says that the old clichés about liars avoiding eye contact and fidgeting might not necessarily stack up. Here’s what you need to know instead.
Lying is hard work. “We’re telling one story while suppressing another,” says Cuddy. “And if that’s not complicated enough, most of us are experiencing psychological guilt about doing this, which we’re also trying suppress. We just don’t have the brainpower to manage it all without letting something go — without ‘leaking’.”
So what can the person on the receiving end do? Well instead of looking for one clear sign that a lie is being told, Cuddy recommends looking for a ‘leak’ pattern. One way to do this is to look for inconsistencies. Are they claiming to feel sad while the corners of their mouth say otherwise? Are they speaking with an overly cheerful tone of voice while their body language suggests tension or agitation? If you look for any conflict in words and behaviours and sense something is off, then your instincts are probably correct, suggests Cuddy.
If it’s as simple as listening to instincts though, why aren’t more of us solid lie detectors? Cuddy thinks the reason is that even when our dishonesty radars are on high alert, we mostly give too much credence to what is being said – putting more sway by verbal clues than any other.
“When we’re consciously looking for signs of deception or truth, we pay...not enough to the nonverbal gestalt of what’s going on,” says Cuddy. “Truth reveals itself more clearly through actions than it does through our words.”