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Investigation and Lie Detection

“The liar was the hottest to defend his veracity, the coward his courage, the ill-bred his gentlemanliness, and the cad his honor.” 
― Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

There is a great deal of literature available to help determine whether someone you are speaking with, perhaps during an investigation, or during a game of poker, is lying to you. What follows are some of the “tells” the trained eye will look for:

  • Eye contact avoidance.
  • Liars use less hands and arms. Often on their lap, folded, closed body posture.
  • Palms down on the table or clenched.
  • Arms and legs crossed.
  • Touching face, playing with hair.
  • Partial shrug.
  • Inconsistent words, gestures, and emotions.
  • What was the initial reaction?
  • Timing of gestures.
  • The surprise wears off quickly.
  • The tight smile; the small smile.
  • Head moves mechanically.
  • The guilty usually go on the defensive; the honest on the offensive.
  • The head shifts.
  • Slumped posture.
  • Liars generally won’t touch you or point fingers.
  • Liars feel the need to give a lot of details.
  • Liars often repeat the question to gain time.
  • Liars use your words.
  • The Freudian slip.
  • Discomfort with silence.
  • The guilty usually engage in body “awayness.” They will put up barriers.
  • Guilty people try too hard to convince. “I would never…”, “I wouldn’t lie,” “To tell you the truth…”
  • “I need time to think.”
  • They look to be relieved that the questioning is over.
  • Look for the out of left field response
  • They make an effort to change the subject.
  • The guilty will engage in moral superiority.
  • They will answer the question with a statement first.

When you are hot on the liar’s trail, you can say things like:

  • Let them know the advantages of coming clean.
  • On a scale of 1-10 where might you fit in …
  • What else could you have done?
  • Talk about it as if it is already an established fact.
  • Stare at them and be silent. Give them a reason to tell the truth.
  • Ask them if “this is the whole story?”
  • I know this happened… what I want to know is what your intentions were?
  • Was this an innocent mistake or a calculated effort?
  • Expand their statement.
  • I know there are two sides to every story…

Liars feast off of amateurs, which is one reason I don’t play poker, and a good reason for you to hire a pro when dealing with workplace investigations!