It’s happened to all of us. We started to get sick, we feel achy, or maybe we just had a hard time getting out of bed for a couple weeks. We wanted to know what’s causing us to feel this way, but we don’t want to visit the doctor. So what did we do – we hit the Internet. What better place to find accurate information from experts right? We search our symptoms on several different websites and 15 minutes later we are convinced we have multiple diseases, two of which could be fatal and one we’re not sure how we got because we haven’t been to Asia…but we know our bodies and the Internet would never mislead us so it must be true.
If we look for something hard enough, we are bound to find it.
The ability to detect deception is becoming a sought after skill set among business executives. There is a long list of benefits they can achieve by integrating it into their daily routines. Executives use these skills to reach better agreements, do a better job at weeding out dishonest job candidates, avoid deceitful business partners, see through false status updates, and stay away from fraudulent investment opportunities. Each of these can save companies untold time, money and stress.
Trying to identify when people are lying by observing their behavior can be a very slippery slope and there are many risks involved as well. Just like self-diagnosing medical issues online, if we look for signs of deception hard enough we will certainly find them. When our counterparts feel that we are working hard to catch them lying they may start behaving similar to dishonest people because they are afraid we don’t believe them and the relationship may be destroyed. These hazards can easily be avoided by following four steps.
Step One: Do Your Due Diligence
Knowledge by itself is not power. Knowledge within the context of the situation is power. Create this power by completing the due diligence process before the conversation starts. Investigators search for what is often referred to as “ground truth.” Once ground truth is established, they don’t have to make educated guesses relating to the truthfulness of what they are hearing. They can simply compare it to what they already know. This is especially helpful when you are dealing with smooth talkers, charismatic people and confident liars. This group will typically display fewer physical indications they may be lying and trust their ability to talk their way out of any situation. Do your homework. Research any potential components of the discussion so you have the basis for comparison.
Step Two: Hold Back What You Know
You don’t play poker with your cards facing your opponents. Don’t open a conversation by telling your counterpart what you already know. One of your biggest advantages is your counterpart doesn’t know what you know. If you expose your due diligence too early you turn an advantage into a disadvantage because you gave your counterpart the opportunity to alter their approach and render your research useless.
Step Three: Remember Honest People May Behave Like Dishonest People
Telling lies does not cause behavioral changes. The stress involved with telling the lie causes the behavioral shifts. Dishonest people’s behavior often changes when they are afraid you will catch them lying. Truthful people may behave similarly to dishonest people when they are afraid you don’t believe them. This fear honest people experience can physically manifest itself in the same way a dishonest person’s behavior can. If you start challenging people or express disbelief physically or verbally you may cause an truthful person’s behavior to imitate behavior typically associated with dishonest people.
Step Four: Remain Neutral – Verify the Truth
The most important key is to remain neutral in your evaluations. Enter your conversations with the mindset of verifying your counterparts’ honesty. If you can’t verify their honesty then continue to ask questions which will provide information to confirm the person’s truthfulness or attempted deception. When we set out to catch dishonesty we can easily create confirmation biases and convince ourselves we are seeing indications of dishonesty that aren’t really there. Any judgments made based on biased assumptions could prove disastrous.
The best approach to take in any interaction is one of verifying truth not detecting dishonesty. This approach causes us to complete our due diligence, helps us avoid creating confirmation biases and leads us to make better business decisions without negatively impacting relationships.