Six Simple Ways You Can Detect When Someone Is Lying To You

by Hank Coleman


Lying is unfortunately a part of life.  It is inevitable.  You will be lied to by people that you may trust for information.  Maybe the lies will be malicious or maybe they will be benign and unintentional.  Many people lie to a supervisor or a client because they have not done their homework.  Maybe they are not as knowledgeable about a certain subject that they are supposed to understand.  Maybe they do not want to disappoint you.  But, how do you know what is a lie and what is a truth?  Is there a way to tell when someone is lying to you?  Maybe… 

There are a few simple detection methods that you can use to uncover if someone is lying to you.

  1. Expect It.  Expect to be lied to.  It stinks to think negatively like that, but being skeptical is the first defense against being lied to.  If you know and understand that a lot of people lie for one reason or other, you will be more inclined to notice it when it is happening to you.  If you want to detect lies, you have to be a little cynical and doubt a lot of what you hear. Socrates hypothesized that it is more dangerous to assume people know what they’re talking about, than it is to assume they don’t and let them prove you wrong. Be like Socrates: assume people are unaware of their own ignorance (including yourself) and politely, warmly, probe to sort out the difference. 
  2. Question It.  Author Scott Berkun said that the first lie detection tool is to ask a simple question, “How do you know what you know?”  Ask this question when someone presents you with an idea, an argument, a reference to a study that may not be 100% accurate.  People rarely have their claims challenged and will get flustered when challenged on what they say.  Asking someone to explain how they know what they know sheds light on whatever lie they may be hiding. If someone can answer your challenge quickly, then they may not be lying.  It is the stumbling answers that you have to be aware of. 
  3. Identify It As Opinion.  Identifying someone’s opinion as speculation, rather than a fact, can help you separate the wheat from the shaft.  Shedding light on possible holes in their arguments is a surefire way to flesh out potential lies. 
  4. Counter It.  What is the counter argument to the suspected lie?  A real argument has matriculated from a solid base position.  Those positions have been thought through and most arguers can counter potential counter arguments.  They will know the counter arguments, and knowing them right away is a sign of truth.  Asking for the counter argument will force a person to either back up their position or will make it clear that they have not done their due diligence.  
  5. Put Pressure On It.  A good argument holds itself together with solid concepts and framework.  It does not bend or fail to maintain its shape the more you poke, probe, test, and examine it.  Lies are smoke and mirrors that cannot stand up to the scrutiny.    
  6. Give It Time.  Time will help show you which statements are lies and which are the truth.  Lies will tend toward gravitate towards urgency with the hope that you will accept what is being said rather than think about it over time. Ask to withhold judgment for a day, and watch the response.  Invite people with expertise you need but don’t have to participate in decisions to add intellect and pressure.  

The sad part is that any of us need tips to find liars at all.  But, that is a fact of life in the world that we live in now.  The better you are at detecting the BS, the better you will be at being profitable, wise, and successful in life, work, and investing.

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{ 1 comment }

Matt_SF August 25, 2009 at 11:34 am

Really like #3… I see this on a daily basis as a trader. Not that folks are lying outright, just that they believe their opinion is always right and believe their words need to be considered as gospel.

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