More of the Truth About Lying
by John Boe

There are some people who can't tell a lie, others who can't tell the truth, and unfortunately, most people can't tell the difference. Can you tell when someone is pulling the wool over your eyes? Whether you're an attorney selecting a jury, a manager interviewing a new agent, or a salesperson making a presentation, your ability to quickly and accurately discern the truth greatly enhances your effectiveness. Fortunately, having the ability to sort fact from fiction is an important communication skill that can be learned.

Aside from conmen, compulsive liars, and some politicians, most people become uncomfortable when telling a lie and transmit their deceitful behavior through their body language. While they may sound convincing their gestures speak louder than their words and consequently they reveal their deceit nonverbally. While it's not always easy to spot deceptive behavior, there are many subtle yet discernable clues to the trained eye.

Body language is a mixture of movement, posture, and tone of voice. Studies show that nonverbal communication has a much greater impact and reliability than the spoken word. Therefore, if a person's words are incongruent with their body language gestures, you would be wise to rely on their body language as a more accurate reflection of their true feelings. During the selling process it is important to remember that body language is not a one-way street. While you are evaluating your prospect's body language for signs of honesty and credibility they are subconsciously observing and reacting to your gestures as well.

Some People Can't Handle the Truth

The truth sometimes hurts and few business or personal relationships could survive the harsh reality of total honesty. While honesty is certainly the best policy, the truth is, in our day-to-day encounters it is not always diplomatic or socially acceptable to be completely honest. To spare the feelings of others, we have learned the usefulness of telling half-truths, fibs, and white lies.

During the selling process some people have difficulty saying no and will actually tell you they are interested in order to avoid potential conflict. As the pressure of making a decision builds, prospects will frequently use half-truths or lies to either stall or disengage from the selling sequence. While their words say yes, their body language indicates no. By being able to recognize the inconsistency between your prospect's words and their gestures, it is often possible to flush out their concerns, overcome their objections, and make the sale.

See No Evil - Hear No Evil - Speak No Evil

Eye, nose, and mouth movement along with hands gestures are the four major nonverbal cues typically associated with lying. The statue of the Three Wise Monkeys accurately depicts the primary hand-to-face gestures associated with deceit. When a person is doubtful or lying they will often use their fingers to block their mouth as if they were filtering their words. This hand-to-mouth gesture is commonly referred to as “speak no evil.” The second hand gesture associated with deceit is called “see no evil.” This gesture occurs when a person rubs or touches their eye(s). The third hand gesture, “hear no evil”, is displayed when a person covers their ear(s) or drills their finger into their ear as if they were blocking the conversation.

If a person uses one of these gestures while they are talking it indicates that they are being deceitful. On the other hand, if they are displaying one of these gestures while someone else is talking it indicates that they doubt the truthfulness of what is being said. These three gestures should be considered red flags. When you encounter one of these gestures during your presentation it is a good idea to gently probe the subject matter with open-ended questions to encourage your prospect to voice their concern.

In addition to the three hand-to-face gestures eye movement is another reliable indication of deceit. It is normal for a person to look up to the left when thinking about the past and up to the right when thinking about the future. For example, if you ask a person the color of their first car, or some other question from their past, they will look up to their left to access their memory. If instead they look up to their right, they are thinking of the future and therefore, they are making up a response. Law enforcement personnel and customs agents are trained to routinely monitor eye movement during interviews.

Micro Gestures

According to Paul Ekman, professor of psychology at the University of California, San Francisco, two of the most common micro gestures that are associated with deceit are the nose wrinkle and the mouth curl. The nose wrinkle is the same gesture that occurs naturally when you smell something offensive. The other facial micro gesture is a slight downward curl of the corners of the mouth. Even if a liar makes a conscious effort to suppress all of their major body gestures, micro gestures will still be transmitted. People sometimes lie, but their body language always tells the truth!

John Boe is recognized as one of the nation's top sales trainers and motivational speakers. He helps companies recruit, train and motivate salespeople to achieve peak performance. John is a leading authority on body language and temperament styles. To view his online Video Demo or to have John speak at your next event, visit or call (877) 725-3750.

Many more articles in Communications in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2005 by John Boe. All rights reserved.

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