How To Uncover Deception: A 101 Guide

We live in a world in which people try to deceive each other. As an adept of truth, it is important to promote honesty and discourage deception. If you dominate body language, you can better spot liars. If you can truly observe and reflect on human behavior, you are closer to avoid being deceived. This article aims to help you get better at it. I based this article on my reading of “You Can’t Lie to Me”, from Janine Driver.

Brace yourself: we are about to enter a dangerous zone.

Have you seen “Catch Me If You Can”, starring Leonardo Dicaprio? The film is based on the life of Frank Abagnale, who, before his 19th birthday, successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars by posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor and a Louisiana parish prosecutor. This is one famous scene from the movie:

Talented scammers like Abagnale used deception in order to achieve their goals. He was so talented that he managed to avoid jail for years, and made millions of dollars out of scamming. All he needed was to be informed, know how to lie and manage stressful situations.

The truth is, your identity already has been stolen.
- Frank Abagnale

Now, notice that Abagnale’s case is one case. There are plenty out there. Just imagine that the dollars being stolen are yours, or your identity was stolen. Who doesn’t want to prevent this possibility?

Having this into consideration, let me purpose a challenge:

If you would have to choose, what would you pick?

  1. You take the blue pill and become the most skilled master of deception the world has ever seen, getting rich because of it.
  2. You take the red pill and you can gain the power to avoid being tricked.

Hopefully, you took the red one and even asked for an extra one. I strongly encourage you to not to trick anyone. Scamming, cheating and lying don’t lead to anything good. Major sources of problems. Please don’t take blue pills.

Now that you have taken a red pill, dear reader, let’s move on with the hard truth: 8 in 10 lies pass undetected, and 60% of adults can’t have a 10-minute conversation without lying. The odds are not favorable. Can you believe that?

Everyone lies — including you — and probably a little more than you realize. Although sometimes we lie just for our own benefit, I like to think that we often lie for altruistic reasons. Because we are honest human beings, it is likely that we generally feel guilty for lying. But compulsive lairs don’t feel bad, and those can harm you in the short and long term. They have become so good at lying that it is as easy as not doing so. Some of them actually are so evolved in their lies that they are almost convinced the lies are the truth. Careful with them.

One key aspect for spot lies is using a special tool — intuition. By trusting myself and in my intuition, I assume everyone is “innocent” until I have proofs stating the opposite. I would like you to try to trust your intuition because it is a powerful tool. You’ll see that it can bring you peace and positive energy while helping you to avoid untruthful and negativism from your life. Try to find the truth, and don’t become obsessed with finding the lies.

Before digging deeper into how to spot a liar, I would like to demystify some common myths about lying:

Myth #1 — Liars avoid visual contact: Not necessarily. Some lairs completely avoid visual contact while others try to maximize visual contact.

Myth #2 — Liars laugh in order to disguise their deceptions: Not necessarily. While many laughs, not all do.

Myth #3 — Liars seem anxious and are always changing their position: most likely, people are just nervous, and not necessarily lying.

The key to spotting a liar is pattern finding. Acknowledge the base status of a person, the “baseline” and examine deviations. Although you can find a more or less static baseline for each person, the baseline is specific to the age, culture, emotional state and the occasion. Deviations from a specific baseline may be a good indicator if a lie is going on.

How to determine someone’s baseline?

Making the person comfortable, having a chat and observing. You should also pay attention to body language. Look for patterns. Here are some examples of body language that you may want to pay attention.

Four easy steps to spot a lie

Keep in mind that the basis of this technique is knowing the other person’s baseline. Based on that, one can measure deviations and make conclusions.

Step 1 — Information gathering

First things first. Developing an emphatic relationship with someone raises the probability of honesty: if you can create a respectful relation in which there is no need for lies, better. As soon as you develop an emphatic relation, be open and put yourself in the other’s position.

If this is not possible, this is where you have to act quickly and establish a baseline for the person’s behavior: their tone and how the person picks up words. This implies to watch out for verbal and non-verbal hints. Aim for a light conversation at the beginning. And listen more than you talk. Being on the same page with someone allows you to create a connection in which the person feels comfortable with you. People lie when they don’t feel comfortable or connected to someone.

Step 2 — Listening

Once the baseline has been set, now we have to go deeper into our research. In this phase, we will be analyzing the verbal and non-verbal behavior, putting the focus on the first one.

Actions that are in the red zone and may indicate deception:

  • Rising or lowering the tone of the voice.
  • Inconsistencies in the storyline.
  • Providing details that don’t make sense.
  • Freudian slips.
  • Pausing a lot during the speech. Also, very quick responses (maybe because a lie was carefully formulated beforehand).
  • Saying “I wouldn’t ever do that”. “I wouldn’t ever do that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been done.
  • Raging. Like a cornered animal, the liar who is about to get caught tries to minimize that chance, by intimidating. It is just an attempt of deviating attention from the subject being discussed. This happens a lot.
  • Being too much polite. Repeating a lot “sir”, “lady” or even “please” may be a glimpse of stress.
  • Not using “I”. Abused usage of “them, we, it” may be an attempt not to talk directly about the subject.
  • Distract from the relevant conversation.
  • Repeating the question that was asked.
  • Using “but”. “This might sound weird but…”, “I know that this looks odd, but..”.
  • Changing eye contact patterns
  • Changing blinking patterns
  • Changing breathing patterns
  • Blushing
  • Shrugging shoulders at the wrong time. It’s a sign of uncertainty.
  • Contracting lips.
  • Involuntary body functions like sweating.

Don’t forget: some people acts may be in the red zone, but maybe they are just idiosyncrasies.

Step 3 — Paying attention

We will be looking for deviations from the person’s behavior baseline. Study the other person. Is he with legs crossed? Are his legs firm on the ground? Is there any space between them? Is he trying to simulate feelings? When someone is trying to convince you of something, they will frequently try to instill the state they are conveying to you.

Try to detect micro-expressions that tell you about people’s emotional state.

Step 4 — Asking the right questions

By asking the right questions, one can raise the cognitive load of a possible liar, leading to the exposure.

A basic technique to make the right questions is to start asking open-ended, basic, innocuous questions, that you may already know the answer:

How was the weekend?

How are your studies on Técnico Lisboa going?

This kind of questions allows you to gather some verbal and non-verbal clues, and assimilate information. Try to avoid Yes/No questions, as they often lead to dead ends.

Gradually, you can move to heavier questions. While you do this, always pay attention to changes in the baseline. Significant changes may indicate something is not right.

Remember that silence is gold. People normally try to avoid silence in conversations. Additionally, the liar wants to end the confrontation as soon as possible, while inconveniencing you from their lies. If he or she is now quiet, wait for a reaction.

Eventually, you will be able to understand the baseline of a person in a given context, allowing you to measure deviations. Adding that to a close observation of responses can lead to a conclusion.

Some tips:

When you think someone is not telling the truth, do not “attack”. Instead, be cool:

Do you really think that happened that way? *Starring, looking in the eyes, but chilled*

After that, we play the waiting game, and act based on the answer (or lack of answer).

Bottom Line

Ultimately, catching liars is about observation and attention. We should try to avoid being manipulated, and seek the truth. But we shouldn’t also become paranoid about it.Keep in mind that sometimes you are wrong and there was no lie. Maybe someone had strong reasons to lie. Don’t forget, be reasonable.

I would like to say that lying is actually necessary for our society (unfortunately), as some are for the greater good. Without it, it would be hard to avoid unnecessary conflicts and we could be hurting the ones we love. Liar Liar, a comedy starring Jim Carrey depicts one day without the possibility of lying. He is in a bad situation.

Last but not least, don’t ever lie to yourself.

Keep rocking. Cheers!

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