When we bargain with a salesperson, suspect a friend is in need, or discern a date’s intentions, our judgement is constantly put to use. We need to investigate people and situations everyday. Too often we take people at their word and don’t look much further than the information others choose to share with us. While many people believe themselves to be great judges of character, only a very small percentage (less than .001) of untrained people have the gift of reliably being able to read others. Whether we choose to believe it or not, we make mistakes of believing lies and disbelieving truth all the time.
Finding the truth that people can’t or won’t say is an important ability, and, lucky for us, it is completely learnable. My information comes from a book by Dr. Paul Ekman called Telling Lies. His experience and research in the field of psychology has paved the way to an entire science of lie detection. The techniques he has come up with fill several books and are the foundation for lie detection procedures in numerous military, government, and crime enforcement related organizations.
This week we will dedicate one day each to reading eyes, body language, facial expressions, voice, body language, and story telling. Each day we will learn about how to read cues and practice by focusing on that one feature in everyone we meet. Finally, we will put it all together and test ourselves to see how well we can pick up on those important clues of deceit.
Before we start, there are a few important things to remember.
1. Keep an open mind. Don’t presume a person to be lying until he has given you sufficient scientific reason to do so. Those with suspicious nature did scarcely better than chance in guessing a person’s truthfulness according to Eckman’s studies. In fact, having a reputation of being too suspicious can provoke false positive results in subjects.
2. Know your own bias, and limit its influence. Wanting to believe someone’s truth or guilt or bringing past prejudices into a new situation sway your results and decrease your effectiveness. Remind yourself that your primary goal is to find out the truth.
3. Remember what you are finding evidence of. We may find that someone is lying, but we don’t know why they are lying. Don’t be satisfied with just gathering clues. Challenge yourself to put them all together to solve the real question. Dig deep and be objective so that you can discover the big picture.
Now we can get started. Happy snooping!