If people tell a lie every three minutes, how do you know if your Customers are lying or telling the truth?
Last month I was walking the floor of the California Dental Association event in Anaheim with Genna, a salesperson for a dental supply company. While walking we came across one of her Customers named Alyssa, who was coming out of a competitors’ booth. It was a bit awkward at first but we settled into some introductions and the tension eased. As we were speaking Genna asked her if she was going to come by for a demonstration of their new floss product. Alyssa stated that she was planning to and that she also wanted to take advantage of their show special. After they made arrangements, we parted ways and I asked Genna what she thought of the interaction. More specifically I asked her if she thought Alyssa was telling the truth.
“I think she was truthful.” Genna stated. The reality is Alyssa wasn’t telling the truth but Genna missed the signals. Alyssa never showed up and in fact, took her business to Genna’s competitor. This interaction made me realize that although most of us feel we are good at identifying lies our Customers tell, very few of people can really separate the lies from the truth. With this sentiment in mind here are some things to think about and some signals to look for when interacting with Customers.
- Early and Often.
Research shows that on average a person will tell three lies in a ten minute conversation. The good news about this is fact is that your Customers will give you plenty of opportunities to read them and separate the truth from the lies if you watch for the signs. Keep in mind that most people actually believe what they are saying and think that their lies are believable. This means that you should be able to pick up their queues if you are paying attention.
- Stronger, more direct eye contact.
The myth is that liars tend to look away when telling a lie. But the reality is that they only try to look away if they are ashamed or embarrassed and want to get away (this is known as a flight mechanism). Most of the time the person telling the lie will try to read if their lie is believed which requires stronger eye contact than usual. If the person you are with is making intense eye contact it might be a sign that they are stretching the truth and sizing you up.
- Listen for “affirmative deflection statements”.
People tend to mask lies by using affirmative deflection phrases like “believe me” or “to be totally honest”. These phrases are often a tip-off that the statement being made is not completely true.
- Rigid upper body language.
The tribal belief is that liars are fidgety and/or nervous. The truth is that liars tend to stiffen up during their bantering. This is driven by their need to focus on the victim and restrict their energy in preparation for a flight maneuver should the lie be detected. Compulsive liars use their energy to control their emotions and read the queues exhibited by those around them which requires intense concentration and focus.
- Distance from the situation.
During our conversation Alyssa stated that she wasn’t sure what decisions were going on back at corporate. Liars often try to distance themselves from the situation and make it seem like they are completely uninvolved. They want the victim to believe that it has nothing to do with them. The most famous example of this is the Bill Clinton “I did not have sexual relations with THAT woman”. He was attempting to distance himself from her as if he didn’t even know who she was.
- Contractions don’t exist.
Liars tend to use more formal language when telling stories or denying what they have done. If you are speaking with a Customer and they stop using contractions and enunciate more directly they are more than likely spinning a yarn. Again, “I did not have”, notice it wasn’t – I didn’t have.
- Micro-flashes leak out.
Micro-flashes are signals that people give which escape their control mechanisms in short bursts. For example; at one point during our conversation Alyssa said she was looking at Genna’s competitors but had NO interest in going with them. She specifically stated “I am not going to change over to those guys”. As she said this her head bobbed up and down instead of side to side. Micro-flashes escape because the body seeks to release the energy it takes to control emotions while telling lies.
- Inappropriate gestures.
Oddly enough, when people lie they have a tendency to smile at the end of the lie (micro-flash). Law enforcement people are trained to look for this signal. Criminals will often smile when they finish telling elaborate, even horrific stories. After expending the energy to control their emotions their body needs a release and this inappropriate queue leaks out.
- No depth under cross examination.
Compulsive liars have larger white brain matter which allows them to control emotions and micro-flashes better. They also make faster connections and read others more efficiently. Unfortunately, they also have less grey matter and consequently their lies are often flimsy and poorly thought out. These house of cards lies often fall apart under only a small amount of scrutiny. Asking questions (typically three to five consecutive, reworded questions), will often unravel the lie.
The main point here is that it is important to recognize the truth and the lie when dealing with Customers. If Genna had identified the lies she might have been able to dig into the objections Alyssa had to buying from her organization and overcome them. To read the signals better it is important to realize that people don’t bend the truth or fib because they are malicious, awful people with evil intent. In fact to the contrary, they often have good intentions. For example, I am sure that Alyssa lied because she didn’t want to hurt Genna’s feelings and felt she was being nice by stretching the truth. Therefore, it’s critical that we read the signs, control our emotions, provide our Customers with a way out of the lie and never, ever take it personally.
Last modified: August 14, 2013