I was at a party recently talking with a very nice guy. Our conversation meandered throughout various topics, and at one point what we were talking about prompted him to say, “If they asked me about it, I would say; I think I turned it in. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He then added quite confidently, “I’m a good liar!”
Well, as I mentioned, he was a nice guy so I didn’t want to break it to him that he was a TERRIBLE liar! If this guy was Pinocchio he would have poked my eye out with his nose! A good liar would simply say “I turned it in,” but there is nothing simple about lying. A person who intends to lie knows the truth about what happened and deliberately leaves out or changes information about it. They have a memory about what really happened but what they communicate is not in alignment with their memory. This is a cognitively complex task for anybody, as they have two scripts running at one time…what happened and what they plan on telling you happened.
A truthful person does not have that problem. They have a memory of what really happened as well, but they do their best to provide information that is aligned with that memory. They have ONE script…the TRUTH. Coincidently, a truthful person would say the same thing a good liar would say, “I turned it in.” This is easy for a truthful person to do because it is aligned with their memory and it is the truth, but it is very difficult for a deceptive person to do, which is reflected in their language.
Let’s examine the statement made by my friend at the party. He said, “If they asked me about it, I would say; I think I turned it in. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The first thing that flags our attention is his comment “I think I turned it in.” With his use of “I think” he reduced his commitment to what he was asserting, thus it became less reliable. Being a nice guy, he does not want to lie. Even bad guys don’t want to lie if they don’ have to…it’s simply human nature. Therefore, rather than lie directly like a good liar would, the vast majority of people qualify their statements with words such as “I think.” Other such words are “kind of”, “sort of”, “best as I recall”, etc. These reduce the commitment to what the person is saying which reduces reliability as well.
The next thing that sticks out is his comment “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Here he is trying to imply a lack of knowledge by saying he does not know what you are talking about, but he DOES know what you are talking about because you asked him a question about it. That IS what you are talking about! He even responded to what you were talking about by saying “I think I turned it in”, so he clearly DOES know what you are talking about. His inclusion of that information and his implied lack of knowledge are attributed to his need to try to convince you that he is being truthful. A truthful person simply conveys information while a deceptive person has a psychological need to try to convince the person they are being truthful.
Well, during our conversation at the party I didn’t bring this information out or attack his story, or let him know that he was not as good of a liar as he believed. We simply went on with our conversation. Having this kind of knowledge and training you will certainly see and hear a lot more than what people intend for you to hear. In social situation like the party I was at, or with families and close relationship, it is best to take it in and let it go, as long as nobody will be hurt or adversely affected.
However, in a professional setting such as an investigative interview, criminal interrogation, human resource investigation, pre-employment screening, informant assessment or any other setting where the communication is critical that you get truthful and accurate information and identify deception, this information and insight is invaluable to identifying deception and reaching the TRUTH.
So, please don’t be afraid to invite me to your cook-outs and parties…as you can see, I left my friends ego fully intact and we had a great time and a good conversation!