First of all, let’s get one thing straight: Everybody lies at certain times. I don’t have a problem with that. It’s a human trait. While the little white lies we tell each other often help to smooth our social interactions, some of the more serious lies, like covering up a crime, can have terrible consequences. That’s why my alter-ego, Julie O’Hara, looks for clues that bust the liar.
One of the tricks of the trade is to assess the importance of the lie. What’s at stake for the speaker? Julie has noticed that good liars aren’t stupid. When the stakes are high, they use their skill to lie more convincingly. You won’t see a smart, high-stakes liar fidgeting and looking uncomfortable. Look and listen for this important clue instead:
No ownership. You’ve seen this many times with politicians. They usually have no problem taking credit for their accomplishments, but when a politician is lying he or she will use fewer first-person pronouns. Julie has found this trait to be most reliable and consistent. A liar’s primary goal is to distance himself or herself from the incident in question, to take attention away from their personal behavior or involvement.
Even when they know this rule, people trip over it. Case in point: Hilary Clinton and the Benghazi tragedy. In an obvious attempt to appear upright and honest, she famously said, “I take full responsibility”… and from that point on uttered nary an “I”, “me” or “mine” in subsequent speeches and testimony. BTW, this is no criticism of Hilary, whom Julie admires, just an observation on human nature!
Check back for some more tips on body language. I told Julie I was busy writing Topaz Trap, her latest adventure, and I didn’t have a clue what to blog about. She squeezed my shoulder and said, “I love that story, keep at it. Don’t worry about the blog, just listen to me…”