Conversations on Lie Detection admin January 10, 2022

Conversations on Lie Detection

Following on from last week’s article where I discussed the great conversations I had with Luan De Burgh about influence and persuasion, this week is about a similar series of chats I had with Mike Reddington around the topic of lie detection, especially in the context of negotiation.

Mike is a world-class expert in the field of forensic interviewing. If you ever saw the brilliant series “Lie To Me” where Tim Roth plays the man that the CIA or the FBI call when they want to find out the truth in a situation, well Mike does exactly that in real life. And he’s just finished a book called “Disciplined Listening” that will be out in the next couple of months.

My field is obviously negotiation and one of the big worries my clients have is “What if my counterparty lies to me?” So Mike was the perfect person to talk to.


Nothing Beats Due Diligence

In the first video, he stressed the importance of preparing before the meeting. The more you know the facts of the matter at hand, the more likely you are to notice anything dishonest (and, indeed, the less likely they are to lie to you in the first place).

Obviously, he goes into a lot more detail in the talk but he stresses that nothing beats your due diligence – both before the meeting and after. When the meeting has finished, you’ve got the opportunity to verify anything that’s been said which is, of course, preparation for the next meeting.


Evaluating for dishonesty

In our second conversation, we talk about how to evaluate the communication for dishonesty in the moment and he stresses not to fall for the old “if they’ve got their hands covering their mouth this means…” myths.

Instead, you need to baseline them when they’re telling the truth, find out their normal behaviour, then look for any variation from that. And if you spot any change, ask yourself “Why did their behaviour change just then?” And instead of looking for the hand over the mouth or the scratch of the nose, keep it simple, simply look for signs of comfort or discomfort. If there is a sign of discomfort, what might be causing it?


Manage Your Emotional Reaction

In video three, he talks about the importance of managing your emotional reaction. It’s so easy to be furious and scream “liar” but that’s probably not going to help things. They will probably become defensive and double-down on the lie. You’re now further away from your outcome than ever.

You need to manage your automatic reaction and stay focussed on your outcome. Remind yourself what it is you’re trying to achieve and how you can best achieve it.

How do we stay calm in the moment? Well, whatever comes first into your mind, don’t say it, it’s probably not going to be helpful! Instead, buy a few seconds by saying, “ok” or repeating what they said and this allows your brain to process the situation and gauge its best response from there.



How To Respond

Then in the last video, Mike tells us the best way to respond and, again, this is all about staying focussed on your outcome. Their lie is just new information about what you need to do to achieve it.

Consider lying the symptom, then understand the cause and you can now work with this better to reach your goal.

The research is very clear, the number 1 reason for dishonesty is fear of consequence, real or perceived, and embarrasment (losing face) is the most likely consequence they fear.

So give them the psychological safety and allow them routes out of the lie without them losing face. Ask questions to explore what they’ve said but with a curious tone rather than aggressive and always allow a route out.

And after the meeting, do some more verification and if you find it is still a lie, well you have more information to support any decision to walk away. But walking away in outrage should never be your first strategy.

Remember, it’s much better to get your outcome than enjoy your moral high ground without it.